Palm Coast, FL – Living in Massachusetts, hitting the pool or beach was reserved for summer days or special occasions. But after moving to Florida, the parents of young children quickly decided that water safety was high on their priority list.
After attending the Water Safe event at Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club on Saturday, the family of four walked away feeling more confident in the skills and were ready to take it to the next level by signing up for lessons.
“We’re new to the area so swimming wasn’t a big part of our life and now it is,” said mom Courtney Pina. “We didn’t swim too much before but living in Florida, everything is water related, so it’s a lot of swimming now and I get nervous, so this was good.”
Pina also picked up information about preparing for the upcoming hurricane season.
“The most important part was the swimming and the disaster preparation. We learned a little bit about that,” she said with relief.
Not alone, other families that have made the move to the Sunshine State were out to learn more about the services available in Flagler County ranging from swim lessons to skin care and summer activities, and safety professionals were ready to share their knowledge.
A change in message from years past by members of the Flagler County Fire Rescue team to “Reach – Throw – Don’t Go” drew all eyes to the pool, as fire fighter paramedic Reuben Zuazua and Lt. John Krall led the demo.
“Our main goal is to really stress the importance of calling for help, reaching out, and then throwing an object to help the victim,” said Krall. “We don’t want the kids to enter the water. We used to teach ‘reach, throw, go’ but we don’t want to do that anymore because ‘go’ is causing two victims in the water instead of just one.”
He highlighted the importance of calling 911 immediately in a crisis situation, to allow trained operators to assist while emergency personnel heads to the scene.
“Our dispatchers are the most important because they’re the first ones to take the call,” he said. “They’re on the phone talking to family members and getting the valuable information that we need as we’re responding. You need to activate emergency services initially – that’s the first step. From there, dispatch can give you advice on what to do, what to check for, breathing, pulses. They’ll walk you through it even if you are not CPR certified, and will administer CPR over the phone for you to do as a layperson.”
A closing message to new families in Florida is one he hopes will take root.
“What all those families need to realizes when moving to Florida is we’re surrounded by water,” said Krall. “They immediately need to go to the local pool and look for swim lessons and get their kids into swim lessons. That’s the most important thing for them to do because around here we have ponds, retention ditches, the ocean, we’re surrounded by water, and that’s something that they might not be used to.”
Attending most any water safety event he can, Flagler Beach Ocean Rescue director Tom Gillin helped oversee techniques for some of the youngest attendees. Passionate about water safety, he says it’s never too early to start, and stay alert, especially if you’re new to Florida.
“We’re basically here to raise awareness because the main cause of drowning is people just don’t understand, it’s a lack of education and a hundred percent preventable.”
For more information and resources visit www.watersafefl.org.