They Quietly Slide UnderPosted: Updated:
Ever see a child drowning? I've witnessed it three times. In each case I rescued those children ... essentially, I suppose, saving their lives. They were kids who knew a little bit about how to swim but were not strong swimmers. They quietly slid under the water, unable to get back to the top on their own.
Yep, before I was a TV news reporter, I was a lifeguard and a Red Cross certified swim instructor. I spent most of my pre-teen years on an elite competitive swim team in California and later, my athletic strength and swim skills qualified me to receive lifeguard training.
I learned everything from how rescue of a grown man off of the bottom of a pool or lake, to how to release the around-the-neck-clutch of a person who has grabbed onto me in panic as I bring them to safety. So, as a trained lifeguard, in the three cases mentioned above, I knew how to rescue the children in trouble.
Now that our warm weather has arrived, here's what I can pass on to parents, grandparents and caretakers who are with kids enjoying a bit of fun in a pretty aqua play space.
Drowning happens in all kinds of different ways but in the drowning incidents I witnessed, the children were NOT flailing their arms and kicking and screaming the words,"HELP".
These kids felt confident enough to be in deep water and even had smiles on their faces seconds before they quietly slid to the bottom of the pool. Boom! It happens so fast. It's shocking to see, believe me. I remember every second in slow motion. Truly, even kids you think can swim can drown in no time at all.
My favorite water safety message comes from someone I have had the pleasure of sharing time with doing live reports and feature stories.
I've interviewed Phoenix Fire Chief Bob Khan in his backyard or his laundry room or next to his Christmas tree about fire and pool safety issues. I did a home tour story with him and I fondly remember doing another special piece where I used his home video camera footage to show viewers the incredible journey that he and his wife Peggy took to China to get their daughter Gracie Mei.
Bob Khan was given an Emmy award from local journalists because he has a keen understanding of how the media works and how to form sentences that have impact.
When it comes to pool safety, Kahn will tell what I just said, that swim lessons will not save your kids from trouble. He would probably add to that the warning that a fenced pool will not save your kid from trouble. Supervision is key to safety but so is the overall attitude about how a swimming pool should be viewed.
You will hear people say: "Protect your children around water!" Khan says that too but he has also used these three, well-crafted sentences to evoke powerful, emotional imagery. "If it was a pit of alligators your kids would fare better and the danger would be apparent," says Khan. "Here you have this sparkling pool that we barbeque around and we're just not getting how dangerous it is."
The news reporter side of me thinks that's an awesome quote and the lifeguard side of me agrees 100-percent, especially when you realize that the 2007 drowning stats for Phoenix include 5 fatalities and our "summer swim season" has just begun.
Public-safety message from Phoenix Fire Chief Bob Khan:
"We never see tragedy coming; it will slap you in the face on a Tuesday afternoon, or during a family reunion. There is no warning, and our little ones constantly teeter on the edge of mortality. We need to put up barriers such as child proof patio doors & pool fences. We must provide eye to eye contact while kids are in the water, and learn CPR. Sue can tell you first hand, not one of her near drownings woke up and said: "Hey I'm going to the pool today and might drown." Please don’t be complacent! Be safe.
Robert A. Khan/ Phoenix Fire Chief