life jacket

Megan Smithmyer, left, helped Ireland Wilks put on a life jacket at the Isett Community Pool in Huntingdon during Camp HCC this week. Experts urge adults to exercise caution when children are near the water this summer.

Whether at the pool or the lake, when swimming this summer, fun and safety should go hand in hand.

The manager of Isett Community Pool, Mary Ann Buckley, said one of the best ways to keep children safe at the pool is to avoid distractions.

“Everyone has a cellphone in their hand today but the parents are pretty good at being watchful, we have a really good group of patrons here. We just ask the parents to pay attention to the kids, especially if they’re going off the diving board.”

When lifeguards transition between shifts they will keep each other informed of kids who could potentially get into trouble.

“The staff will talk to a parent if it seems like your child might struggle swimming to draw their attention to that,” said Buckley. “It’s a good idea to put life preservers on the little ones. We do have the splash park now, which allows the younger group of kids to have something to occupy themselves with.”

There are general safety guidelines everyone should look to follow, not just at the pool.

“You always want to swim in a designated area so you know the depth, and if there’s any underwater obstructions. You obviously don’t want to dive into water you don’t know the depth of,” said Jacob Hohman, a park ranger with the United States Army Corp of Engineers at Raystown Lake.

“Never swim alone, of course. If you’re a parent or guardian, make sure you keep a watchful eye on your kids. You could turn around for 30 seconds and they could be completely underwater, so you need to be observant the whole time.”

While it’s always better to swim in an area watched over by a lifeguard, Hohman said, there is a protocol in place when attempting to help someone who is drowning.

“We have a saying, ‘reach, throw, row, don’t go.’ If someone’s struggling in the water, first you want to see if you can reach them with something to help pull them to safety, like a boat paddle or a branch. Throw refers to throwing them something that could help them stay afloat, like a lifejacket. Row is for if you have a boat you can row out to them and help them climb on board.”

However, you shouldn’t swim out to someone on your own, says Hohman.

“When they’re drowning, they’re fighting for their lives. They could see you as just something to push under to stay afloat and then you can have one tragedy easily turn into two,” he says.

Staying vigilant and swimming with others in designated areas will help ensure that you have fun and stay safe this summer.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

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