Common sense goes a long way.

Jun 5, 2001

The Bottom Line Know what questions to ask, and don't be afraid to ask them. Your talking about your child's safety!

Safety, safety, safety. That is what you should know about swimming camps. Or any swimming activities at all. Children around pools are accidents waiting to happen if you don't take the proper precautions. My daughter is going to a swim day camp for 5 weeks this summer and this is what I asked the camp. I also got some of the questions from a recent Oprah show about childhood safety.

First of all are the counselors trained in first aid and CPR?
What kind of medical staff is on hand? Anyone with more than just a couple of first aid courses?
Where is the nearest hospital?
What is the camps policy on bullying? Do they remove the bully? Call the bully's parents or call me?
Check the surface around the pool. Is it a non skid surface? Kids will be run, even if you tell them not to, so you want to be sure the surface is not slippery.
Are there life preservers or a floatation device nearby?
Are life vests available to the kids who cannot swim very well?
Is there a first aid kit and phone nearby? Or do the counselors carry a two-way radio?
How often is the chlorine checked in the pool? This is one thing I discovered on the Oprah show. A child can get e-coli from a swimming pool. If the pool has in any way had fecal contamination and a child swallows the water, they can contract e-coli. So ask about the chlorine, it should be 1.5 ppm and checked every hour.
Also very important is ask about how the pool drain is marked, or do they have 2 drains. I had seen reports on this before. The suction from a pool drain is tremendous. It will only take 2 seconds for a child or yourself to become attached to that drain if you stand or sit on it or get real close to it.
One case documented of a girl whose hair got too close to it and it sucked her hair in, pinning her to the bottom of the pool and drowning her.
Another case, a 5 year old girl sat on a drain and was disembowled. Once you are attached to the drain you cannot get off of them because the suction is so powerful.
If there are 2 drains and someone is on one, the other one will release the pressure. If the pool only has 1 drain, see if it is marked somehow, so people can clearly see it. Or see if the pump has an automatic shut off if the drain is blocked.
Find out the ratio of counselors to children. Too many children and not enough counselors could spell danger.

If it is a lake the child is swimming in, be sure to discuss with them things like undercurrents, snags, and diving in shallow water. See if there is a boat nearby in case a child needs to be reached quickly, or several children are in need of help. Also what I mentioned above about first-aid and a phone or two way radio.

Obviously when you are with a toddler you should watch them at all times. Last year when my daughter and I were at our condo pool a mother with 2 kids came to the pool. One was about 6 and the other 2. She was busy with the 6 year old and turned her back on the 2 year old. Sure enough the 2 year old wandered off and fell into the deep end of the pool. Luckily my daughter saw it and screamed, and I jumped in and grabbed him. It only takes a second for the little ones to jump in, and they can quickly drown. I always wonder what would have happened had we not been there.
Anyway, common sense is the key, and asking the questions I mentioned should make for a safe and fun summer swim camp. Don't forget the sunscreen too!

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