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Water safety is first priority

Swim lessons, CPR training can help save lives
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Editor
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Summertime means lots of fun in and around water, but safety should always be the number one priority. The Loomis Basin boasts countless lakes, ponds, pools and creeks that are attractive places to play and cool off when the temperatures rise, but tragedy can strike in an instant. Lawrence Bettencourt, deputy chief for the South Placer Fire District, said emergency personnel from his department recently responded to a Loomis home where a 3-year-old boy tragically drowned in the family’s pool. Bettencourt said his department responds to at least one child drowning call every year. He said they also respond to drowning calls at Folsom Lake that often involve adults. Bettencourt said that any body of water can be dangerous and advised residents with swimming pools to “do whatever you need to do to secure that pool.” He suggested fences, locks, pool alarms and other safety devices. Andy Portillo, engineer with the Loomis Fire District, said, “A young child can drown quickly and silently, often without any splashing or screaming. It can happen in just a few minutes.” Portillo recommends personal flotation devices, but said “they are never a substitute for supervision.” He said pool fences and walls should be at least four feet high and installed completely around the pool, with gates that are self-closing and self latching. He said the latch should be out of the reach of children. According to Portillo, house doors leading to the pool should be protected with audible alarms or child proof door knobs. For above ground pools, steps and ladders to the pool should be secured and locked, or removed when the pool is not in use. “If a child is missing, always look in the pool first. Seconds count in preventing disability or death,” Portillo said. He said rescue equipment should be kept by the pool, along with phone and emergency numbers. He suggested parents and care-givers become cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) providers. The Loomis Fire District offers free CPR classes two Saturdays a month. “CPR can greatly improve a drowning victim’s chance of survival,” Portillo said. In Loomis, swim lessons are offered both at the Del Oro pool and at Sea Otter Swim School. Jayleen Huestis is a teacher at Penryn Oaks Preschool and said she brings almost 10 children from the school to swim lessons at Del Oro. She said the lessons are “more affordable.” Huestis also recommends lessons from the perspective of an experienced parent, “My oldest learned to swim here. She swims like a fish now.”Marcy Derifield, of Rocklin, watched recently as four of her children attended Del Oro swim lessons — Connor, 9, Marissa, 7, Landon, 5, and Hannah, 3. Derifield said Connor knows how to swim, Marissa was “afraid of the water,” and the younger two are learning. “They’re learning a lot. We’ve been other places and they’re really good here,” she said. But young, inexperienced swimmers are not the only ones who can become drowning victims. Portillo said more than 80 percent of adolescent drownings occur in remote areas, and of those, 40 percent involve the use of alcohol. “Remote waters can be a major hazard due to submerged rocks, strong undertows and rough waters. Drinking impairs swimming ability and judgment, and may hinder a person's ability to recover after being submerged,” he explained. Portillo suggested that swimmers stay in areas that provide life guards and proper supervision. He said it is important to wear a personal flotation device that is the correct size. He said those devices are required by law for children 12 and under on the Sacramento and American rivers. “Prevention and preparedness is the only ‘cure’ for drowning when playing in or around water,” Portillo cautioned. SWIM LESSONS & CPR CLASSES Del Oro pool: final two-week session begins July 5. Register at the Loomis Basin Chamber of Commerce, 652-7252. Sea Otter Swim School: year-round lessons in a heated, covered pool, 660-9492. Free CPR classes: Loomis Fire Protection District, twice-monthly on Saturdays, 652-6813.