Spreading the message that drowning is preventable – check out the video of the 4th Annual Water Safety Expo!

Video and Story by Gloria Locke

Summer in the Southland lures families to water recreation. Santa Clarita community leaders hit the streets providing seminars and safety expos to bring families life-saving water safety information.

This year, Anthony Ervin, Santa Clarita Olympic gold medalist and ambassador for USA Swimming Foundation, travels with other Olympic icons during the Make A Splash national tour.

“We’re just out here promoting water safety. It’s been really impactful in my life to learn how to swim, and in addition to that I’ve contributed to teaching others the gift of swimming. Saving lives and building champions,” says Ervin during a seminar in South Los Angeles.

Santa Clarita’s 4th annual Water Safety Expo facilitated at Fire Station 126 in Santa Clarita. Family activities included dancing and games with Radio Disney performers, balloon toss with fire fighters, and a big hit with a spinning lottery wheel where families answered water safety questions to win prizes.

“We have several children each year that die from a drowning and from our perspective, it is preventable,” said Los Angeles County Fire Chief, Daryl L. Osby. “We want to emphasize pool safety, first of all to prevent the incident. But if the incident does occur, then to dial 911 immediately; and then to train our citizens how to start CPR prior to the fire department arrival, to help the survival rate of the child,” he said.

According to the Center for Disease Control, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death among children ages one to four. A Pool Safely national report showed that over 200 pool and spa deaths were reported in 2013 during the 98 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day, 71% were children under the age of five.

“Kids need to learn how people drown and how it’s important for the parents to be here with the children,” said 12-year-old Robin Haggenmiller representing Girl Scout troop 7432. Robin began swim lessons at age three.

“The earlier that kids get started, the easier it’s going to be for them to learn to swim,” said Justine Kerrick, an infant swim instructor at Academy Swim Club. “We start lessons as early as two-weeks (of age),” she said.

The City of Santa Clarita provided water safety demonstrations suitable for the youngest attendee. “We’re teaching ‘Reach or Throw, Don’t Go” which teaches little kids how to throw a ring buoy and save lives,” says Keone Thompson, a lifeguard with the City of Santa Clarita. The technique can be utilized with a broom handle, swim noodle, and other objects, to avoid a child jumping into the water in an effort to rescue a friend or family member – which often results in a double-drowning occurrence.

A simulated drowning incident of an actual 911 call was re-enacted by paramedics responding to a mother’s plea for help as she pulls her motionless daughter from a pool. Families were able to visualize the amount of time it takes for first responders to arrive, attempts to resuscitate the victim, with fire trucks and ambulance at the scene. A helicopter made a landing at the Valencia Westfield Town Center mall allowing families to view inside the emergency airlift unit.

The Water Safety Expo emphasized three main layers to lessen risks of water tragedy:

Safer Pools: installing proper pool fencing with locks and alarms,
Safer People: taking swim lessons, and
Safer Preparation: taking CPR classes – in case of an emergency

Locally, Henry Mayo Memorial Hospital provides free community CPR classes. The City of Santa Clarita provides free and low-cost swimming lessons. Summer is a prime time for families to enroll in lessons.

“We want to do whatever we can to have no drownings this summer in the Santa Clarita Valley,” said Nikki Miller, owner of Academy Swim Club, which provides year-round lessons.

Water safety expos and seminars offer a fun way to review the facts of a serious summer concern. Santa Clarita is taking that message to the streets.

“We want you to have a very safe and enjoyable summer and not have to have an official visit from the fire department,” said Fire Chief Osby.

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