International Water Safety Day, held annually on May 15, helps spread drowning awareness and water safety education. In Part 2 of a three-part series, aquatics professionals in the industry share how they implement water safety awareness.
To improve pool safety at its facility, the Mittleman Jewish Community Center implements a campus-wide supervision policy for members and guests to follow. This policy indicates how much supervision is required for kids, based on age group and a swim test. The youngest kids are required to have a caregiver with them at all times and kids ages seven to 12 are required to be directly supervised by a caregiver, meaning they can be in the pool without a caregiver, provided they have passed the swim test.
“Our swim test is another layer of safety we provide,” said Ryan Ochoa, the aquatics program manager at the Mittleman JCC. “The lifeguard will have the child demonstrate certain swimming skills, and assess whether or not they require a life jacket or a caregiver in the water.”
One of the safety perks for both staff and members is providing life jackets for free day use. “Our life jackets are United States Coast Guard approved, and the members appreciate that we are able to provide them with appropriate safety gear when they come to swim,” said Ochoa.
Additionally, swim lesson programs feature low student to teacher ratios, which makes the lesson more productive and allows the instructor to maintain better class discipline and safety. “Not only are we teaching swimming skills, but also how to be safe in and around the water,” described Ochoa. “We provide free pamphlets on topics like life jacket safety, and protecting yourself and others from exposure to germs.”
Even with safety precautions in place, pool accidents are a possibility, one that can leave a lasting impression on a young swimmer. “In the event of an accident, I find it best to always follow up with the family a day after the incident to check in and see how everyone is doing,” said Ochoa. “The ways we show how we care for our community go a long way in building a trusting relationship and making a safe space.”
When it comes to water safety, the importance of staff training cannot be stressed enough. This is why the Mittleman JCC emphasizes safety as their No. 1 priority and guest service second.
“I think one of the best proactive safety protocols a facility can utilize is regular staff training,” said Ochoa. “Our staff participates in monthly two-hour trainings where we cover everything from rescue skills to first aid to guest service — the more frequently these skills are practiced, they more rescue-ready the staff is.”