Marco … Polo!

Stay safe, healthy in pool this summer

By Barbara Pierce

Soon, those enjoying the sunshine this summer will hear those familiar chants of “Marco” and “Polo.”

Marco Polo is an American form of tag played in a swimming pool.

While eyes shut, the player who is “It” shouts “Marco” and the other players must all respond by shouting “Polo”, which “Marco” uses to try to find them.

On a hot summer day, a swimming pool seems like the greatest invention known to man. Hanging out around the pool is a fantastic way to stay cool when temperatures climb.

Swimming is a staple of summertime. Though the clear turquoise water might look completely harmless, there are a lot of dangers associated with swimming pools.

“Unfortunately, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports that more than 3,400 people drown each year in the United States,” said Hank Leo, CEO, YMCA of the Greater Tri-Valley.

Drowning is a leading cause of accidental death for children of all ages.

Here is some pool safety advice to keep everyone safe as they have summer fun in the pool.

Watch children at all times

Children are drawn to water and can drown even if they know how to swim. “I have a preschooler who climbs bookshelves or runs out of buildings when you turn your back for like three seconds,” said Joy Auch online in “A Healthier Upstate. “What if he tries to get into the pool when I’m not looking?”

If you’re a parent, you know how quickly young children get around. “People assume if their child falls into the pool, they’ll hear lots of splashing and screaming, and have time to react. In reality, a child slips into the water and goes under the surface quickly and silently — without warning,” said Hal Stratton online, former chair, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Although it seems obvious, never leave children unsupervised near water, including a bath. The families of drowned children know that it happens in seconds. Watch them constantly, even if they can swim. Don’t rely on water wings, noodles or inner tubes to keep children safe.

For older children, an adult should be paying constant attention and free from distractions, like texting, socializing or drinking alcohol.

Teach children to swim

Although swimming lessons don’t necessarily prevent drowning and are not a substitute for adult supervision, it’s important to teach children to swim. “Teaching children to swim at a young age prepares them to be safer and more confident around water,” said Leo.

The best thing you can do to be safe in and around water is to be able to swim – this applies to both children and adults. “Swim lessons help adults and children become more comfortable in the water, and teaches them to float and safely operate in the water. This also empowers them to participate in neighborhood pool parties and enjoy social times with their friends in the water,” added Leo.

“We provide swimming lessons at both our Rome and Oneida branches of the YMCA, totaling over 350 participants,” he said. “YMCAs have been teaching people to swim for more than a century. In YMCA aquatics programs, children learn to be safe around water and they feel the sense of accomplishment that comes with learning something new.”

In addition to youth swimming, other aquatics programs include infant-parent classes, preschool classes, classes for people with disabilities and classes for teens and adults, and group as well as private lessons, Leo said.

The key to preventing pool tragedies is to provide layers of protection: limiting pool access, using pool alarms, closely supervising children, and being prepared in case of an emergency.

Keep pool area secure

A fence should surround the entire pool area. It shouldn’t be climbable and nothing should be placed alongside the fence, like lawn furniture, that could be used to climb it.

Kids are very good problem solvers, Auch said. There shouldn’t be more than four inches between slats.

Gates should be self-closing and self-locking and well out of reach of children.

If you have an above ground pool, take the ladder down and cover the pool whenever it’s not in use.

Keep safety equipment easily accessible. Make sure that you have life jackets and other flotation devices like a ring buoy at the pool in case you need them, and know how to use them. Have a phone near the pool so that you can call 911 if necessary.

Time is of the essence if someone gets hurt or has a drowning incident.

Don’t mess around with weather. Thunderstorms and swimming pools are not a good combination. If you hear thunder or spot lightning, everyone needs to get out of the pool and stay out for at least 30 minutes. If you hear another boom or see another flash, the 30 minutes start over again.

Maintain clean pool

Pools get dirty and germy. Make sure that you maintain and clean your pool properly. Some general guidelines for ensuring that the pool stays clean:

— Keep up with pool filters.

— Chemically treat the pool by following the instructions.

— Keep pets out of the pool.

— Don’t allow people with open wounds to go swimming.

— Babies must wear swim diapers.

— No peeing in the pool.

With these tips, you can have a great safe summer in your pool!