Keeping Swimmers Safe: How You Can Help Prevent Drowning

Keeping Swimmers Safe – 2016 Colin's Hope Got2Swim 10K Relay Team

Keeping swimmers safe is so important. SwimTopia has formed a 3-person relay team to swim in the 2016 Colin’s Hope Got2Swim 10K open water event. We’re swimming to increase water safety awareness and raise funds to help prevent drowning. We’re thrilled to support Colin’s Hope, an Austin-based charity that does tremendous work promoting water safety awareness, providing excellent online resources, and supporting programs such as life vest loan stations.

If you are interested in helping us support Colin’s Hope, we are accepting tax deductible donations on our fundraising page.

Being involved in this event has made me much more aware of the prevalence and preventability of drowning. I now know drowning is the number one cause of accidental death for children under the age of five. When we first formed our team, we created a pledge drive page, which mentioned the number of drowning deaths of children in Texas so far this year. As the summer has progressed, that count has ticked up, week by heart-wrenching week, to a current total of 90 deaths. Seeing more and more stories of families who have lost a child to a preventable tragedy really underscores the importance and urgency of informing more people about keeping swimmers safe, how to have fun and stay safe around the water.

One story that really hit home for me was the story of Elise Cerami, a 13-year old competitive swimmer from Southlake Texas, a cheerful girl full of promise and potential, who tragically drowned during an early morning swim practice.

As a parent of competitive swimmers, and as a former competitive swimmer myself, I admit I really have not worried too much about the risk of my kids drowning. They are strong swimmers and are very comfortable around the water. But I’ve learned that being a strong swimmer does not make one drown-proof. Even strong swimmers sometimes drown. More importantly, I’ve learned that a false sense of security can be very dangerous around the pool.

Our Colin’s Hope Got2Swim relay team is swimming in honor of Drennen O’Melia. Drennen was also a competitive swimmer. On June 6, 2010, one day after competing in his first meet of the summer, Drennen’s parents dropped him off at a pool party. Thirty minutes later they received a call informing them he had been found unconscious in 3 1/2 feet of water in a pool with two lifeguards on duty.

During a recent trip to Denver, I had the opportunity to meet with Drennen’s father, Bill O’Melia. Listening to Bill recount the story of Drennen’s tragic death, and seeing the pain in his expression, hearing the tremble in his voice as he shared a story I’m sure he’s told countless times over the past six years, brought tears to my eyes and also triggered in me the deepest fear for any parent, the fear of losing a child.

Drennen’s parents have focused their grief into action and prevention. They have formed Drennen’s Dreams Foundation, another charity focused on keeping swimmers safe by raising water safety awareness, with a special focus on lifeguard training. Bill shares the story of Drennen’s death to educate lifeguards and to warn them of the dangers of complacency. A video on the foundation website shows a clip of Drennen swimming in a race, easily winning his heat. Drennen was a fast swimmer. He was an All-Star qualifier. If he could drown so suddenly, it occurred to me, anyone could.

Keeping Swimmers Safe – What You Can Do

If you are frequently in and around the water, then you really should be informed and aware of how to recognize and prevent drowning.

  • Visual Supervision. Make sure someone is watching children around water at all times. Make sure your kids know they aren’t allowed in the pool without a Water Guardian on duty.
  • Learn what drowning looks like. Despite the typical depiction of drowning in movies and television with cries for help and thrashing in the water, in nearly all cases, drowning happens quickly and quietly. Most drowning victims are unable to breath and simply can’t call out for help. Constant visual supervision is key to drowning prevention. Make sure you and your kids (and their friends!) know how to recognize drowning.
  • Learn CPR. Taking a CPR course will give you the skills you might need to save someone in the case of an emergency. Make sure your children’s caregivers are CPR certified as well.
  • Wear Life Jackets. Especially on lakes and around open bodies of water.
  • Take the Water Safety Quiz. Take this quick and easy quiz. You may learn something new, I did!
  • Support Drowning Prevention Organizations. Families United to Prevent Drowning is an umbrella organization supporting the efforts of drowning prevention foundations and charities, many of which were started by families of drowning victims.
  • Learn More. See the Colin’s Hope website for more lifesaving tips to keep you and your family safe around the water.

Learning to swim and becoming a strong swimmer is one of the most important things you can do to prevent drowning. But don’t let complacency lure you into thinking your strong swimmers are drown-proof. With a little more awareness and vigilance we can all have fun, stay safe, and prevent drowning, by keeping swimmers safe.