Swim lessons can save lives

CHICAGO, Illinois -- As school wraps up, plenty of kids will be making a summer splash. But before they jump into water, kids need to know how to react if a swim goes wrong.

"Swim... flip and swim for air instead of popping up for air. Kids have very large heads compared to their body and so when they lift their head up that's a lot of weight to lift out of the water and then they're going to immediately go vertical... and then they're in a drowning position."

Foss Swim School says lessons even prepare kids to swim in heavy clothing-- so they can react quickly in a life-threatening situation.

On Saturday, Foss Swim School will host free family water safety open houses throughout the Chicagoland area-with important tips for parents too.

"It's important to watch your kids and stay really close to your kids... Drowning is a silent event."

Beyond that, Foss's Jeremy Sunderland says parents should avoid creating a false safety net by always holding their kids in the water; it's important kids are aware of what they can and can't do on their own.

"Jump in the water, catch them. It gets really fun for them and they remember that it's fun but then they'll be jumping in the water and you're not around. And they just remember the fun and nobody's there to catch them," he explains.

The Chicago Fire Department also encourages taking swim lessons.

"People overestimate their swimming ability. There's waves, cold water. It all comes into play and affects people and their ability to swim," says Deputy District Chief of Marine and Dive Operations Ron Dornecker.

He sees this turn to tragedy too often, like when a 13-year-old girl drowned in Rogers Park yesterday.

The fire department's 140 public safety divers train constantly for such 9-1-1 calls- and often respond for real, pulling almost 80 people from the water last year alone.

Even experienced swimmers are at risk-especially in Lake Michigan, where the water can be much colder than the sun's feel.

"It takes their strength, it causes a gasping reflex."

The U.S. Centers for Disease control says roughly 10 people die each day from unintentional drowning-two of those people are children 14 or younger.

"Whether it's a swimming pool, a bathtub, a lake, a river, parent supervision is always really strongly encouraged," Dornecker adds.

People are already out here on the lakefront enjoying the warm weather. But the fire department recommends you hold off on swimming until lifeguard patrols begin on the Friday before Memorial Day. And even then, the fire department says to never swim alone.
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