Pictured are swim lesson students learning life-saving water safety skills.
Courtesy of Aqua Tots
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Water safety at any age

Elizabeth Medora ~ 6/4/2014

PHOENIX – More than half of Americans can’t swim.
The American Red Cross recently published a survey stating that 54 percent of Americans don’t have all the basic swimming skills they need to keep themselves safe in water. Keeping kids safe around water always is and must remain a high priority. However, adults are at risk of drowning, as well.
So far this year, the Daisy Mountain Fire Department has responded to two drowning calls, one for an adult and one for a child. Sadly, in both cases, the victims died. While the north valley fortunately does not have a large number of drownings, even one is too many.
“Daisy Mountain has a Water Safety Division that is committed to educating the communities on the risks and dangers associated with water,” said Captain Dave Wilson of the Daisy Mountain Fire Department. “Prevention is always a number one priority; however, accidents do occur. In the event of an emergency, call 911 immediately and initiate CPR. Residents are all urged to learn CPR. To schedule a class, contact Daisy Mountain Fire Dept.’s CPR coordinator Jeff Hinrichs at (623) 465-7400.”
Swim lessons are available from multiple instructors throughout the Valley, for both kids and adults. Aqua Tots, the Anthem Community Center, and the YMCA offer all-ages swim lessons.
“In 2013, the Desert Foothills YMCA taught more than 154 children how to swim in our summer lessons program and served more than 35 individuals (children and adults) in a private lesson setting,” noted Katie Smetana, Executive Director of the Desert Foothills YMCA.
“For all age groups, learning to swim can help children and adults build self-confidence and self-esteem. Adults in particular appreciate learning skills that they missed when they were younger and have a strong sense of achievement at finally having mastered them.”
Aqua Tots Swim Schools in north Phoenix offers swim lessons for all ages.
“At our school, we actually have five adults in classes who have stepped up and said, ‘I will learn to swim, too,’” said Brent Byerly, owner of the north Phoenix Aqua Tots. “What a great example to their kids they are.”
The Anthem Community Center also offers all-ages swim lessons. Desiree Valdivia, Aquatics & Program Manager noted that lessons for adults are one-on-one with the instructor.
“On average, we get about 200 participants in group lessons throughout the summer,” added Valdivia.
All of these organizations campaign for water safety for every age group.
“A 1 to 4 ratio of fatal drowning incidents are children under the age of 14. The rest of those drownings are ages 15+,” said Smetana, YMCA.
“That speaks volumes to the trend in increased adult drowning incidents.”
Smetana emphasized that adults can receive private swimming lessons if they’re uncomfortable about not knowing how to swim.
“Most adults opt for private lessons, as it lends itself to a more one-on-one focus,” said Smetana.
“When someone is age 50+ and does not know how to swim, there can be an embarrassment about their lack of knowledge or fear of the water. Adults typically can do better in more individualized sessions,” she added.
Swim lessons can be prohibitively expensive for struggling families, but the YMCA has options for families who can’t afford lessons so that everyone can get the skills they need to be safe in water.
“We encourage anyone interested in our programs and services to come in and discuss the option that would fit their needs best,” Smetana said.
“The Y is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and offers various financial assistance options for families. We also offer scholarships.”
Keeping safe in water requires constant vigilance, even for those who can swim.
“There is no substitute for responsible continuous adult supervision,” said Wilson, noting that the fire department recommends always using barrier devices, gates, nets, self-closing doors, and other barricades in conjunction with supervision.
“I always recommend that parents designate a sober, responsible adult to stand watch any time kids are in or around water. Remember, it only takes a few inches of water for a child to drown. If you can’t designate an adult, I recommend hiring a lifeguard to stand by and watch. Children are crafty and sneaky – if there is a way through, around, under, or over a barrier, they will find it.”
Smetana noted that backyard pools are the location of 60-90 percent of young children’s drownings.
“NEVER leave a child alone near a pool for any reason,” she emphasized.
She also noted that adults shouldn’t overestimate their own swimming abilities.
“Adults think they can swim better than they can. They should follow the first basic water safety rule that we say for kids –always swim with someone!”
For more information on obtaining swimming lessons for yourself or your child, contact Aqua Tots at (480) 845-6381, the Anthem Community Center at (623) 879-3011, or the YMCA at (480) 596-9622.