Someone can drown in the time it takes you to respond to a text message. And it can happen without a sound.
That’s meant not to scare you but to remind you that awareness and supervision are critical tools for keeping Scout-age children safe in and around water.
May — the start of swim season in most parts of the country — is National Drowning Prevention Month. The Boy Scouts of America has plenty of aquatics fun in store for Scouts this summer. It’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how to do it safely.
I mentioned last month that the BSA is a founding member of Water Safety USA, a new roundtable of nonprofit and government organizations committed to preventing drownings.
One of the perks of that collaboration is sharing knowledge and skills to prevent drownings — which right now are the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death (after motor-vehicle crashes) in children age 1 to 14.
Here are a few quick reminders from the BSA and its Water Safety USA partners:
1. Get trained.
Every leader should know the basics of swimming and CPR. Your local council might be hosting a CPR course, so check with them. Or use this American Red Cross locator tool.
2. Make life jackets mandatory.
Make sure Scouts — even those who know how to swim — wear life jackets in and around natural bodies of water, such as the lakes or the ocean. Weaker swimmers can use life jackets in the pool, too.
Life jackets should fit properly and be Coast Guard-approved.
3. Find a safe area.
Swimming in the lake or ocean can be fun, but you must carefully inspect and prepare for safety prior to each activity.
Water depth, quality, temperature, movement and clarity should be considered, and hazards — such as downed trees — must be eliminated, isolated or flagged.
4. Keep a close watch.
When kids are in or near water, they should be closely supervised at all times.
Drowning happens quickly and quietly, so adults water lookouts should avoid distracting activities. That means no reading, talking on the phone, texting or doing anything else to take your eyes off the water.
5. Use the buddy system.
Buddy swimming is all about being helpful and kind in the water. Buddies stay together, monitor each other, and alert the safety team if either needs assistance or is missing. Buddies check into and out of the swim area together. At camps, this often happens by using a buddy board.
Buddy checks — where the lookout asks each buddy pair to raise each other’s hand — should happen every 10 minutes.