First responders and swim instructors gathered at the YMCA in Santee to teach a water safety program Monday morning, in an effort to prevent drowning as swim season takes off.
The water safety program marked the beginning of National Water Safety Month.
A helicopter ambulance for east San Diego, Mercy Air 6, landed next to the Cameron Family YMCA's water park to kick start the event.
“Drowning remains the leading cause of accidental death for small children,” said David Atik, a Mercy Air 6 flight nurse, in a statement. “We take every opportunity we have to remind kids that they should become strong swimmers and always swim near a lifeguard.”
YMCA swim instructors joined the first responders to speak about pool safety and low-cost swimming lessons.
“We have water surrounding all of our communities here in San Diego, so it becomes really important for kids to know how to be safe in and around a swimming pool, and different types of water environments,” said Jojo Pope East county YMCA director of the association of aquatics.
About 10 people die a day from accidental drowning, making it the highest reason for unintentional injury or death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“We unfortunately know that kids drown within 10 feet of safety, under adult supervision,” said Pope. “A lot of our program is really to focus on those basic safety skills: teaching them how to jump into the pool, bounce off the bottom, return to the wall and return to safety. We also teach them the swim-float-swim, which are skills so they can get air if they become too tired.”
For the month of May, each YMCA in San Diego is offering a safety-around-water drowning prevention program free to the community.
Pope says the YMCA also offers family packages to teach the whole family how to be safe around water. The classes are open to children as young as six months, as well as adults.