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May 28--What is the best thing a parent or other child caregiver can do to ensure his or her charge is safe in the water?
Supervise the child.
"The main thing that I can recommend is supervision," said Scott Alston, water safety instructor and lifeguard instructor for the Kinston-Lenoir County Department of Parks and Recreation. "Make sure you know where your children are all times."
Alston said every child, by at least the age of 6, should have "some basic understanding" of how to swim.
"The right techniques are essential in the development of habits of water safety," he said.
As summer gets closer and closer, swimming facilities around Kinston and Lenoir County are beginning to open. The pool at the Kinston Country Club is open to members, and the Pepsi Sprayground at Fairfield Recreation Center opened to the public late last week.
The public pools at Emma Webb Park and Holloway Park will open on June 8 and June 16, respectively. Both pools open at 1 p.m.
"The main thing is to have parental supervision, and swim with a buddy," Alston said of being safe while in the water.
He also encouraged children to limit the use of floats and other pool toys because of the risk of the device carrying them into deep water.
Alston advised that swimmers should also be aware of their surroundings, and never dive into an area where they cannot see the bottom or do not know the depth of the water.
Parents should ensure lifeguards are on duty, and that children are wearing proper floatation devices.
The best floatation devices are U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vests.
Safe Kids North Carolina, a coalition under the auspices of the N.C. Department of Insurance, has also put out several water safety tips for parents.
* Lock -- make sure your backyard pool is protected by a fence that is at least 4 feet high, and has a self-latching gate. Pools and spas should be locked up and covered when not being used, and ladders for above-ground pools should be taken away when not in use.
* Look -- Child caregivers should watch their children at all times. Avoid distractions such as cell phones, books or other people.
* Learn -- Make sure everyone knows how to swim, child or adult; adults should know how to use rescue gear, and how to give CPR to adults, children and infants.
"A fun day at the pool or spa can very quickly turn dangerous if we are not vigilant about water safety practices," Safe Kids N.C. Chairman Wayne Goodwin stated. "As parents and caregivers, we must take active responsibility for our children's safety in and around the water."
David Anderson can be reached at 252-559-1077 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at DavidFreePress.
For more information on how to keep your children safe in the water, visit safekids.org/parents -- click the 'Water Safety Guide' tab.
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