Those of us who live in northern Ohio are never very far from water: Lake Erie, swimming pools,ponds, reservoirs and rivers. Even water parks, hot tubs and spas.
All that water offers lots of opportunities for fun, but it also poses a very real – sometimes tragic – hazard.
According to theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention, some 4,000 people die of drowning every year in the United States. To put a finer point on it, drowning is the #1 cause of accidental death of children aged one to four.
The Bennett family of University Heights came harrowingly close to those statistics earlier this year. While on vacation, their four-year-old found her way into a backyard pool and was discovered unconscious at the bottom.
Fortunately, her 15-year-old sister, Ayala, had completed an American Red Cross lifeguarding, first aid and CPR course just two weeks earlier. She was able to perform CPR until medical help arrived and the little girl recovered.
For her lifesaving action, Ayala received the Red Cross Certificate of Merit, the highest award given by the Red Cross to people who save or sustain a life using skills learned in a Red Cross course. The Red Cross also recognized Shira Goldsmith of Goldsmith Swim School, who taught Ayala’s lifesaving class. “It made me feel so good, that she was able to save her sister,” Shira said. “It made me think, this is why I do what I do.”
Shira was just a teenager herself when she realized there weren’t enough lifeguards to safely supervise children in backyard pools in her neighborhood, so she got trained. “I did my first rescue at 15,” she recalled. She’ll never forget the rush of adrenaline and the overwhelming relief of success.
Passionate about water safety, Shira teaches swimming as well as lifeguarding, first aid and CPR as a high school elective. She also has many students with special needs, African Americans and members of her Jewish faith.
“Even if you don’t know how to swim, learn CPR,” she emphasized. “You never know.”
The Red Cross certifies trainers like Shira as part of its mission to prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.
The Red Cross offers these reminders to help everyone enjoy the water safely:
· Learn to swim competently and be sure your children do too! Go to RedCross.org/TakeAClass
· Swim as a pair near a lifeguard’s chair. Never swim alone.
· Reach or throw, don’t go. Don’t enter the water to rescue someone unless you’re trained.
· Look before you leap. Be sure it’s a safe place and time to swim.
· Follow the rules. Listen to the lifeguards.
· Don’t just pack it. Wear that life jacket.
· Think so you don’t sink. Floating or treading water can help you make good decisions.
· Don’t fool with a pool or spa: Fence it with self-latching gates.
· Download the American Red Cross Swim app for more tips and tools for water safety for the whole family.
The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or CruzRojaAmericana.org, or follow us on X at @RedCross.