San Diego Junior Lifeguard Foundation Focuses on Summer Water Safety - Voice of San Diego

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San Diego Junior Lifeguard Foundation Focuses on Summer Water Safety

By Camille Lozano

A young girl dog-paddles in the pool, speaking directly to the camera, to anyone watching. Every once in a while, her chin slips beneath the water, and her words become lost to gurgles. Her hands frantically paddle back and forth underwater as she tries to stay afloat.

Drowning Prevention is as much about awareness as it is about teaching a child to swim. Commit now to be more aware. Drowning is preventable if we all work together. Want to do more? Volunteer your time with the SDJGF by helping at our Fundraising events. For more information, contact Julie McAdam Farr.

Then she slips underwater, and doesn’t come back up.

This sobering scene is part of a drowning prevention PSA campaign set to launch on televisions all across the nation as we head toward the summer months—when children will be enjoying the beach, pool parties, and picnics at the bay—and when drowning statistics are higher than ever. It’s meant to remind adults everywhere that children’s lives, can be taken in a second without proper precautions, awareness and knowledge.

Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in San Diego among children ages 1 to 14. These deaths usually occur in residential pools and often while adults are present.

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Kids from the Ocean Discovery swim lessons made possible by the 2016 Foundation Grant.

This summer, the San Diego Junior Lifeguard Foundation is continuing its efforts to combat this devastating reality through community partnerships, public awareness efforts and programs for youth, parents, and the community.

Water Watcher TagSDJGF has partnered with Rady Children’s Hospital and its Safe Kids San Diego program to collaborate and contribute funding for “Water Watcher” tags. These tags— attached to wristbands and equipped with a safety whistle—are to be worn by a responsible adult who will keep a constant watch over children in and near the water.

A Water Watcher will:

  • Maintain constant eye contact
  • Stay within an arm’s reach
  • Not use their phone or engage in other distractions
  • Not consume alcohol before or while they are the designated watcher
  • Have their cellphone in hand to call 9-1-1 if necessary
  • Know CPR, and other lifesaving measures

Why are these tags so important? The reality is, drowning can occur in just seconds. It can happen quickly and quietly, often with little or no splashing, and no call for help. The only way to preserve a child’s life is to commit to careful, constant supervision. The Water Watcher tags remind adults of this important and necessary duty.

If you would like a tag, you can find a list of 32 local fire stations, community centers and aquatic organizations that will be distributing them by clicking here.

Mary Beth Moran, coordinator for Safe Kids San Diego, says with SDJGF’s funding, these tags (available in English and Spanish), are now more accessible to San Diegans than ever before.

“We feel we will have greater impact this summer as 32 organizations including recreation centers, community pools, fire stations and more are helping to distribute the tags and get the safety message out,” Moran says. “It gives parents and the community an opportunity to meet and establish relationships with first responders.”

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Kids from the Outdoor Outreach afterschool Adventure Club prepare for Summer with swim lessons funded by The San Diego Junior Guard Foundation.

What else can you do to prevent unintentional drowning deaths?

Take the 2016 “Pool Safely” pledge, a promise to watch your children carefully, know CPR and eliminate the factors that make it easier for children to drown.

Attend “The World’s Largest Swim Lesson,” on June 24. Locations in San Diego, Chula Vista, San Marcos and more will be participating.

Nicole McNeil, pool manager at City Heights Swim Center, says taking swim lessons is the No. 1 drowning prevention measure.

Right now, SDJGF is funding parent/tot swim lessons across San Diego as well as aquatic education opportunities and thousands of swim lessons for underserved youth and their families. It’s all part of the Foundation’s efforts to “Waterproof San Diego,” a program that reached 15,000 people just last year.

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Kids from the Outdoor Outreach afterschool Adventure Club prepare for Summer with swim lessons funded by The San Diego Junior Guard Foundation.

McNeil says the swim center has seen close to 5,000 people participating in swim lessons in the past year, and the pool has received recognition for offering the most swimming lessons in the city.

“The foundation’s funding is extremely vital to our pool’s success,” McNeil says. “People come to take our classes, then they go home and share what they’ve learned with family and friends. It’s an amazing domino effect, and we are thankful for SDJGF providing this opportunity for kids who may have never had it otherwise.”

Here’s some water safety tips to keep in mind this summer:

  • Supervision saves lives. Have a responsible adult designated as Water Watcher.
  • Know CPR—it can mean the difference between life and death.
  • Have life jackets, floating devices nearby
  • Make sure there are barriers between water and a young child. Have a fence built around the pool, have automatic locks and doors, keep pool covers on tight.
  • Stress the importance of following pool rules with your child.
  • For kids: If you sense danger, call for help or get an adult. “Reach or throw, DON’T go.” Extend a stick, floatation device or your arm to help a friend who may be drowning, don’t swim over to them or you will put yourself in danger too.

The Foundation’s unique partnership with the swim center and San Diego Junior Lifeguards and its commitment to saving lives through aquatic education and swimming lessons also provides kids in need with the opportunity to advance as junior lifeguards. SDGJF’s safety advocacy gives kids confidence to continue as talented swimmers, who then have the opportunity to give back to their communities as lifeguards.

This June, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Councilmember Lorie Zapf will keep the focus on drowning prevention efforts, with a Drowning Prevention Month proclamation. It echoes the efforts of SDJGF, Safe Kids San Diego, first responders and so many other organizations focused on ensuring kids have a safe and happy summer void of tragedy.