According to a local report, in the wake of near drowning incidents last year, the Greenville (N.C.) County Recreation District will require all children under 42 inches to "wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket, and be accompanied by an adult guardian at all times."
Do you require lifejackets? Is this a policy more waterparks should adopt?
What new rules are in place at your facility this summer?
I commend their call to action but believe their action is somewhat misplaced. Don't get me wrong, they did mention adult supervision in the article and I am 100% behind education and policy that leads to improved supervision. I truly believe their is a larger issue at work here...
Over the last two decades "traditional" swimming pools have been replaced with water parks/features that require little to no swimming. In turn the children visiting these facilities gain less and less swimming skills during their visits. Twenty years later we have a shortage of lifeguards and and suitable lifeguard candidates (in my opinion). Coincidence?
Mandatory lifejackets will completely eliminate any skills gained by these young children. Furthermore, jacketing "swimmers" under the height of 42" is futile. Shallow/Deep water is subjective to someone's height. Hence 36" water is deep to someone 30" tall but shallow to someone 48" tall. Using this mode of thought one set height to require a lifejacket is inappropriate. Granted I don't know the details of this facility.
My personal recommendation would be a three tiered swim testing system categorizing Non-swimmers, Shallow Swimmers (Yellow Band), Deep Swimmers (Green Band).
Non-swimmer - must remain arms reach from in water adult at all times; lifejacket is optional but is required in group settings
Shallow Swimmer - demonstrates ability to return to a vertical position from a horizontal position on both front and back and 15ft of any forward stroke; must stay in water no deeper than shoulder depth; Designated with a Yellow Swim Band.
Deep Swimmer - demonstrates the first set of skills along with 25yard continuous swim, plunge and recovery, treading; able to swim in all designated areas; Designated with a Green Swim Band.
More details attached.
It is a bit of a challenge to initially implement (especially on a large scale) but once it's up and going and there is a good method of tracking swimmers once they are tested, it can solve the problems I believe this place is trying to eliminate while still allowing these young children the chance to practice and build upon their skills.
At Aquatic Safety Research Group, we’ve changed our minds about lifejackets drastically. We’ve seen too many children die with conscientious parents and lifeguards supervising them.
Note & Float is a program to identify non-swimmers and “float” them with a properly-fitting type 3 lifejacket and also identify swimmers with a different wristband. Children in a lifejacket should be no more than arm’s reach from a parent or guardian. A Note & Float program should be tailored to what will work best at each facility. If a facility does not want to only use a height requirement, they can also identify swimmers and non-swimmers using a swim test.
I have personally taught private lessons at home pools, in which children never had a prior swim lesson. Their only experience swimming in their pool was with a lifejacket and a parent before any formal instruction. When they removed the lifejacket for lessons, I found no hindrance to what I was able to teach the child. In many cases, the child caught on to skills quickly because they had already conquered the battle of becoming comfortable in the water. Comfort in the water is the key to swimming. Research shows the no. 1 deterrent of kids learning to swim is fear of sinking. Therefore, lifejackets can actually help speed up the learning of swimming skills. They help children feel more comfortable by being buoyant in the water. Additionally, it is interesting to note that facilities that have implemented a Note & Float program have seen a significant rise in beginner swim lesson programs.
Swim lessons are vital. However, children often don’t become accomplished swimmers in the first lesson or even after several lessons. We have seen too many cases of children enrolled in swimming lessons, who have drown before they learn to swim. Non-swimmers should be required to wear lifejackets, when they are not in lessons and until they can pass the facility swim test. Lifejackets are the cheapest form of life insurance you can buy.
It is certainly difficult to get used to this idea. Lifejackets aren’t typically used in pools and waterparks. They are more acceptable for boating and open water. Lifejackets also have a bad reputation for being uncomfortable and unattractive. However, today’s lifejackets are more attractive and comfortable and there are far more options than in the past. If the culture changes toward universal lifejacket use for all non-swimmers, we won’t be thinking twice about buckling up young ones in lifejackets for safety.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts folks!
If I understand this correctly, the Greenville County Recreation District operates a waterpark that I assume has a large body of water such as a wave pool or maybe a lazy river. If they have a wave pool then I applaud their initiative to require a lifejacket. While I agree that there is no subsitute to learning to swim and taking lessons, the need to protect life through the use of approved lifejackets is necessary. California adopted Senate Bill 107 in 2008 called the Wave Pool Safety Act. This required every person entering a wave pool in CA under 48 inches to wear an USCG approved lifejacket regardless of swimming skill or parental supervision. This law only applies to those facilities with a wave pool and no other pool. It seems to be working well, however you would need to ask my colleagues that operate those parks for their opinion. You can view the bill at : ftp://leginfo.public.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bill/sen/sb_0101-0150/sb_107_...