Four elements to swim safety this summer

Attention, proximity, continuity and competency are four key ways to keep everyone safe in the water this summer.

Swim Safety.tkAttention, proximity, continuity and competency are four key ways to keep everyone safe in the water this summer. The last ring of the school bell means the end of another school year and the approach of summer fun. Summertime usually means spending lots of time in the water, especially in the South. A University of Alabama at Birmingham pediatric safety expert stresses that proper supervision can help avoid drowning and other injuries.

Drowning is the leading cause of death in children ages 1-4, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Backyard swimming pool drownings are far too common,” said David Schwebel, Ph.D., director of the UAB Youth Safety Lab. “These incidents are devastating to families, and they can be prevented.”

Schwebel recommends use of the four dimensions to swim safety to help keep everyone protected this summer. 

The four dimensions

Successful supervision for drowning prevention includes four dimensions: attention, proximity, continuity and competency. Each component is vital to increase the safety of children when around bodies of water.

Attention can seem like one that would be easy to achieve, but Schwebel says caregivers would be surprised to know just how easy it is to be distracted.

Swim Safety graphicThere is a plethora of things that can cause adults to be distracted, including other adults, conversations and technology,” Schwebel said. “It is really important for at least one adult to remain free of distractions to monitor children in and near the water. 

He also recommends adults take turns monitoring to prevent fatigue.

Proximity to the body of water is essential to drowning prevention. If caregivers are not close enough to act in an emergency, valuable, lifesaving seconds could be lost.

Schwebel says constant adult supervision is the third dimension in drowning prevention. Part of the problem leading to these fatalities is many people believe a drowning will be easy to notice, with the troubled swimmer splashing and yelling for help.

“A large portion of drownings actually occur quietly with little or no yelling or splashing,” Schwebel explained. “Many people drown while under water and sink to the bottom, and only an observant lifeguard, parent or fellow swimmer can save that life.”

The last dimension is one that Schwebel and a team of researchers recently recommend in their published research — competency.

“Competency means knowing how to save a child’s life,” Schwebel said. “Driving provides a simple example: If a parent is competent to drive, they do not crash their car and a child sitting in a car seat will stay safe. Near water, competency is more complicated.”

When young children are around bodies of water, competency includes details like caregivers who know how to swim, how to rescue a drowning child and, when needed, how to administer CPR. In emergency circumstances, competency can add valuable, lifesaving seconds in the event of a drowning.