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Be watchful around water

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    BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS Lifeguard Sarah Nanovic keeps a close eye on the action in the pool and slidesat Baer Memorial Pool in Lehighton.
Published June 28. 2014 09:00AM

Summer is finally here, and the temperature is rising as the Fourth of July weekend approaches.

To help beat the heat, area pools and lakes are the cool spot to be.

But what may start as a day of fun can quickly turn deadly if children are not properly prepared for the water.

"Drowning remains the leading cause of accidental death for children between the ages of 1 and 4," said Robert Adler, acting Consumer Product Safety Commission chairman. "Most of these incidents happen at home, and all of these tragedies are preventable."

In 2012, an average of 390 deaths of children under the age of 15 due to drowning or other water-related injuries were reported nationwide, according to the safety commission.

Of that total, 76 percent of those deaths were children under age 5 and occur 83 percent of the time in either in-ground, above-ground or portable pools.

Pools (and lakes) are cool

Mary Ann Krajnak, manager of the Lansford Community Pool, said that it is important to teach children about water safety.

"Kids need to know their surroundings," she said. "Their strength and ability to swim safely (is important)."

To help keep children safe, Krajnak said she tells parents to keep the child in front of them at all times. She added that parents need to be careful of arm flotations because a child needs good balance in the water to master them.

David Horvath, director at Mauch Chunk Lake Park, said the county provides a lifeguarded beach area and also conducts swimming lessons periodically.

Tori Kunkle, an American Red Cross certified lifeguard for Baer Memorial Pool in Lehighton, said rules at community pools, both in the water as well as around the deck of the pool, should be followed at all times.

"As a lifeguard, I tell the people to stop doing whatever it is they are doing (that is unsafe) and suggest an alternative, the 17-year-old Lehighton Area High School senior said. "For example, if a child is running, I would ask them to not run on the cement by the pool, run in the grass instead."

A child running close to the pool could fall into the water or fall and scrape a knee or arm, causing a trip to the first aid room, Krajnak said.

Other safety tips include walking when near the pool; never swimming where you do not feel comfortable, such as in deep water; no pushing friends into the pool or sitting on anyone's shoulders in the water; and never swimming alone.

Horvath said that around lakes, it is also important to be aware of your surroundings because lakes have more obstacles, including fish and uneven ground under the water.

He stressed that parents need to make sure children knowtheir limitations when around or in the water.


Kunkle said that injuries and even drownings can occur quickly if people are not careful.

She said in her two seasons as a lifeguard, she has not had to do any water rescues.

"Water rescues occur very rarely (at the Lehighton pool)," Kunkle said, "but they do happen. One was actually made not too long ago by a co-worker. Our pool offers swimming lessons taught by the lifeguards, and I hope they are benefiting the children so the number of water rescues decreases."

Drowning occurs when a child or adult cannot remain afloat.

"Children drown swiftly and silently," said Mindy Graver, chairwoman of Safe Kids Carbon County. "There is no sound or cry for help, so parents need to pay attention."

She said that many parents multitask when watching children, and that isn't good since drowning can happen quickly because children panic.

In many cases, people around a drowning person are not aware that they are actually in distress because drowning is not like it is shown in the movies.

There is usually no screaming and flailing arms, Graver said.

Instead, a drowning person looks like they are just extending their arms and pushing against the water. This is because they are trying to get their head above the water level long enough to get air. Unfortunately, during the struggle, most times the person's mouth is not above water long enough to inhale properly, and water is sucked in as the person bobs down.

"You shouldn't rely on swimming lessons, life jackets or lifeguards," Graver said. "It can happen quickly."

Warning signs to look for include the child's mouth staying around water level, the head tilted back, and closed or glassy eyes.

Lifeguards such as Kunkle are trained to spot this type of distress and are certified in first aid, CPR and AED.

Graver also stressed that parents should be certified in CPR.

If a parent suspects a child is in trouble, the best way to check if they are OK is to ask them, because a drowning person will not be able to respond.

Stephanie Gardiner-Walsh, a former lifeguard who grew up around pools while on swim teams, stressed the importance of swimming lessons to combat the possibility of drowning.

"Every child should have the ability to swim," she said, noting that lessons help children become more confident about their ability in the water and give them the knowledge to safely get out of bad situations.

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