Buddy Up!

Are there unaccounted-for buddies? Get everyone out of the water. Begin a lost-swimmer search. Phone and radio all program areas to locate the missing campers.

Lessons For Lifetime Safety

Lifeguards and camp directors are not meant to serve only as babysitters so kids can swim safely at camp. The goal is to educate them to be safe swimmers for the rest of their lives.

Waterfront director: “It’s not safe to swim without a buddy–even in a hotel pool. And that goes for adults, too. That’s why our staff members always have buddies.” (It’s important to set the right example to convince campers to make it a lifelong practice. And just think–it could save a counselor’s life someday, too.)

Are you surprised to hear staff members also need buddies to swim? Do climbing instructors wear helmets and use proper belay techniques when climbing on their time off? Of course they do. Safe, smart adults never hike without telling someone where they’re going and when they’ll be back; and they always wear a helmet when mountain biking. These are all life lessons that kids learn from watching adults.

The same goes for boating. Always put your tag on the board corresponding to the craft you’re taking out. That goes for the lifeguard in the power boat, too.

Waterfront director: “Never go boating without somebody knowing where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Never.”

Water safety is an important life lesson

And if the hour is over and there are still tags on the boating board? Locate those kids immediately–they may be stuck on the lake somewhere. Did they just forget to report back?

Tell them:

1. “I’m glad you’re safe because many people have been looking for you.” (Guilt works better than shame.)

2. “Please always check in and out. Someday it could help save a life.”

Drilling It Down

What’s the best time to do a lost-swimmer drill? Tell the kids it will happen sometime during the swim period. Part-way into the period, have one camper yell, “I can’t find my buddy! I can’t find my buddy!” or “My buddy needs help!”

Guards call an immediate buddy check to clear the swimming area (anyone with a whistle can start to blow it). Search procedures start immediately while the buddy check continues. Or if it’s a “swimmer in distress,” the lifeguard models appropriate use of either “reaching assist” from the dock, or from the water with a rescue tube: describing what he or she is doing so everyone watching can learn from it. The example displays another life lesson for campers to emulate.

Are you marveling over the fact your camp has never conducted a lost-swimmer drill this way before? That’s because you were taught by someone who was never trained specifically in open-water lifeguarding.

Lifeguard Skills

Every lifeguard needs to know all of these procedures, but their primary job is to constantly supervise and scan the water. Scanning skills are too involved to go into here, but it’s enough to say not nearly enough time is spent on teaching, reviewing, and supervising them.

Kids don’t drown on the surface, and drowning kids rarely call for help. Proper scanning helps prevent drowning.

It’s critical that everyone watching the water gets it right; make sure lifeguards have proper eye protection from glare (Polarized glasses), and that they are constantly rotated to new positions to prevent inattention.

Safe-Wise Consulting has some ready-to-use risk-management resources and links that can help keep staff members on their toes (www.safe-wise.com/risk-management/resource-library-main.html).

Teach Swimming. Please.

In a recent report, USA Swimming stressed that “70 percent of African-American children and 58 percent of Hispanic children have little or no ability to swim, despite many recent advocacy efforts to increase awareness of its importance. In contrast, only 40 percent of Caucasian kids lack swimming skills.”

Yet, less than 50 percent of camps still require that non-swimmers take swim lessons. What does this mean? We’re dodging our responsibility. Make the commitment now to be ready to teach swimming next summer. And follow through.

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  3. The Buddy System
  4. Waterfront Safety And Preparation
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