YMCA of Greater Erie

The recent accidental water-related death in Crawford County reminds us as a community that teaching water safety is not a luxury; it is a necessity. There is a list of basic life skills all parents instinctively know they must teach their children to keep them safe and healthy. It includes habits like looking both ways before you cross the street, washing your hands with soap and water and eating the right amount of fruits and vegetables every day.  For too many parents, safety in and around water is not on the list; and that’s something we need to change.

Water should be fun, not feared.

Summertime means pool time for many children and adults, and as they venture to their favorite spots to swim, play and create lasting memories, the YMCA of Greater Erie reminds swimmers to practice safety in and around water.  The Y is recognizing National Water Safety Month to raise awareness of this issue.

Fatal drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages one to 14 years old. The problem is particularly acute among minority communities. African American children ages 5 to 14 are three times more likely to drown than their white counterparts. The disparity is partly due to the lack of swimming experience among these children.

According to a recent national research study conducted by the USA Swimming Foundation and the University of Memphis, 70 percent of African American and 60 percent of Hispanic children cannot swim, compared to just 40 percent of Caucasian children.

The Y recommends children and adults practice the following safety tips when in and around the water:

  • Only swim when and where there is a lifeguard on duty; never swim alone.
  • Adults should constantly and actively watch their children.
  • Inexperienced or non-swimmers should wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • Parents or guardians of young children should be within an arm’s reach.
  • Children and adults should not engage in breath holding activities.

The Erie community has a variety of programs to choose including Learn to Swim programs hosted by various local municipalities/townships’ recreation department and non-profit organizations like the YMCA. Additionally, during the summer, the City of Erie offers the Brian Lee Crosby Memorial Learn to Swim program at East, Central and Strong Vincent High Schools sponsored by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.  The City’s program is offered free to City of Erie residents and is instructed by Y aquatics staff.

If you know how to stay safe in and around water, swimming can be a lifelong source of fun and exercise. Instead of keeping your children away from water, help them learn fundamental water safety skills by enrolling them in traditional lessons or the Safety Around Water program. These classes can provide them a new, exciting way to keep active and meet new friends.

Safety Around Water is funded by a grant from the YMCA of the USA. Registration opens May 8 at the Downtown, Eastside Family and Glenwood Park Ys.

For more information, contact your local township or the YMCA of Greater Erie at 452-1432 ext. 252 or ymcaerie.org.