A group of veteran swimmers is in training and learning how to teach kids in Fort Worth not to drown.
"What we're trying to do is give them simple steps in how to rescue themselves. We're not teaching swim lessons," said instructor Julie Jackson, as she trained 17 volunteer Master swimmers. "As Texas leads the nation in drownings, we wanna teach them how not to drown and encourage them to go on for swim lessons."
The idea for the drowning prevention lessons came last summer after several drowning and near drowning incidents.
"I was talking to some other Master swimmers about it, and we thought how can this be happening? Is there something we can do?," said organizer Pam Cannell.
The conversations led to the formation of the non-profit Fort Worth Drowning Prevention Coalition. The group includes numerous agencies from the city's fire and parks departments to hospitals to USA Swimming Foundation. At the heart of it, though, is Cannell and the North Texas Master swimmers.
The swimmers each have years of experience and now they're in the pool learning and volunteering their time to teach life-saving skills.
"The mission of the coalition is to prevent drowning injuries and death in our area and our work is based on the following statistics: Texas is number 1 in the nation for pool drownings. Tarrant County is number 2 in the state for pediatric drownings (according to stats from the Texas Deptartment of Family and Protective Services). Sixty percent of pediatric drowning in our area are children under four who drown in backyard pools," explained Beth Jones, Master swimmer and FWDPC boardmember.
"What we're trying to do is give them simple steps of how to rescue themselves. If they're in a situation where they're uncomfortable, bouncing off the bottom of the pool or turning over on their back or if they end up on their tummy, teaching them to roll, and then come to side. So they can know they can maneuver around the pool to save themselves or as they're learning float, someone can rescue them," said Jackson.
While instructors and children are in the pool learning to be comfortable in the water, float and tread water, firefighters will teach adults about water rescue, safety barriers and hands-only CPR.
The 4-week Safe Swim program consists of eight classes. It costs $5 per student and in return for attending all eight classes, the student will get a Coast Guard approved life jacket. The coalition hopes to have scholarships for families who can't afford the fee.
The Safe Swim lessons start in May at a Woodland Springs Timberland neighborhood pool in north Fort Worth, then at the Eastside YMCA, 1500 Sandy Lane, in June. The FWDPC hopes to teach water safety skills to 1,000 parents and caregivers, and enroll 200 at-risk students in water safety and swim instruction.
Learn more at www.fwdcp.info.