Monday, July 11, 2011

Summer Fun Water Safety Tips

Did you know that?

Drowning is the 2nd largest cause of death for children 14 and under here in the US?
African American children drown 3x more than any other demographic?
Drowning is the 2nd largest cause of death GLOBALLY for people of all ages?
Drowning can happen in less than 2 minutes after a person’s head goes under water?

What can YOU do to make a change? Where ever you are…..LEARN TO SWIM!

In general:

Always, swim near a lifeguard

NEVER swim alone

Supervise children closely, even when lifeguards are present

Don't rely on flotation devices, such as rafts or floaties, you may lose them in the water; or they may deflate.

Alcohol and other drugs and swimming don't mix

Don’t swim after dark

Know your limits and don’t push them

Stop swimming if you hear a storm approaching; go for shelter

Drink plenty of water and juice to stay hydrated and avoid heatstroke. What are signs of heatstroke? Headache, dizziness, muscle weakness or cramps, and nausea and vomiting. Get medical help right away if you have these warning signs: Hot, dry skin; confusion or loss of consciousness; frequent vomiting; shortness of breath or trouble breathing

Use sun screen to avoid burns

If at the Beach add these tips:

NEVER turn your back to the ocean -- you may be swept off coastal bluffs or tide pool areas and into the water by waves that can come without warning

If caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore until free, don't swim against the current's pull

Stay over 100 feet away from jetties; piers; fixed objects in the water.

If you are in trouble, call or wave for help

If you run into some jellyfish or Portuguese man-of-wars and get stung, you can treat it immediately with vinegar, but you should seek medical assistance.

Read and Heed posted surf warnings

Follow regulations and lifeguard directions

Swim parallel to shore if you wish to swim long distances

Scuba dive only if trained and certified -- and within the limits of your training

No glass containers at the beach -- broken glass and bare feet don't mix

No beach fires except in designated areas -- fire residue and superheated sand can severely burn bare feet -- use a barbeque that is elevated off the sand

Report hazardous conditions to lifeguards or other beach management personnel

Stay clear of coastal bluffs, they can collapse and cause injury


Rip currents are a natural hazard and they are with us always. They pull victims away from the beach. The United States Lifeguarding Association has found that 80% of the rescues affected by ocean lifeguards involve saving those caught in rip currents.

A rip current is a seaward moving current that circulates water back to sea after it is pushed ashore by waves. Each wave accumulates water on shore creating seaward pressure. This pressure is released in an area with the least amount of resistance which is usually the deepest point along the ocean floor. Rip currents also exist in areas where the strength of the waves are weakened by objects such as rock jetties, piers, natural reefs, and even large groups of bathers. Rip currents often look like muddy rivers flowing away from shore.

Try to avoid swimming where rip currents are present, but if you become caught in a one, swim parallel to the shore until the pull stops and then swim back to shore. Repeat as often as necessary. It may take several attempts before you reach the shore and you may find yourself several blocks away from where you originally entered the water. The key is to remain calm; not to panic or tire yourself by “fighting” the current. If you are unable to return to the beach, tread water and wave for lifeguard assistance.

When at the Pool add these tips:

v Don’t run. Slips and falls can result in broken bones.

v Look for the depth markers…the big numbers painted on the side of the pool. Higher numbers mean deeper water. Be sure to look before you jump into a pool. Diving into shallow water can result in a broken neck and death.

v Swim at a depth that is safe for you. If you're just learning to swim, stay in the shallow end.

v Don't push or jump on others. You could accidentally hurt someone or yourself.

v Don't chew gum or eat while you swim — you could choke.

When at Lakes and Ponds add these tips:

v You can't always see the bottom of the lake or pond, so you don't always know the depth of the water. ALWAYS go in feet first!

v Watch out for weeds and grass, which can trap even a good swimmer. If you panic and try to yank yourself free, you may get even more tangled. Instead, shake and pull your arms and legs slowly to work yourself loose or call for help.

At the Water Parks

Ø Wear a life jacket if you don't know how to swim or if you're not a strong swimmer.

Ø Each ride is different. Read all of the signs before going on a ride. Make sure you are tall enough, old enough, and don't have any of the medical conditions that are listed. If you have questions, ask the lifeguard. Always make sure there's a lifeguard at each ride and listen to his or her instructions.

Ø Wait until the rider ahead of you has passed a safe point for you to go down the slide.

Ø Always go down the water slide face up and feet first.

Ø When you go from ride to ride, don't run — it's slippery!

Going Boating:

v Children should always wear life jackets in a boat or anytime there’s a chance they might accidentally fall into the water. Adults should set a good example by wearing one themselves. Make sure your child’s life jacket is appropriately sized and read the instructions and warning labels before using. It should be Coast Guard approved.

v Swimming behind a running boat is extremely dangerous. Not only do swimmers risk coming into contact with the motor’s blades, the carbon monoxide from the exhaust can quickly overcome a swimmer, who may pass out and drown.

v Dock Safety – Be prepared for the worst with a hook, rope and throw ring attached to the dock. Practice their use but don’t allow the kids to play with them. To help prevent accidental falls, paint a line several feet in from the edge of the dock. Insist that the line is not to be crossed unless the child is holding the hand of an adult. All docks should have safety entrance gates equipped with alarms.

Finally, some last tips and pointers:

Supervision – According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, nearly 70 percent of child drownings occur when one or both parents are nearby. Never, ever turn your back when your child is in or near the water. And if you are at the beach, where waves and currents can hamper even the best little swimmer, always stay within arm’s reach of your child. And be clear with the other adults as to whose turn it is to watch the kids.

Bright Colors – Wearing bright colors will make your child more visible on the shoreline and in the water. And if you always dress your children in the same bright colors at the beach and lake, it’s even easier to pick them out of the crowd.

Pictures – Hopefully you won’t need it, but having a photo of your child dressed in his or her beach clothes can come in handy. Keep it in a waterproof plastic bag in case you need to show it to the life guard.

Cell Phones – In case of emergency, you need your cell phone close by and fully charged. Keep it in a plastic bag to protect it from sand, salt and water.

Be Safe

Have Fun


Shawn Slevin

Swim Strong Foundation, Inc.

Friday, March 18, 2011

NY Daily News: Swim Strong Foundation co-founder Shawn Slevin helps kids learn to swim

by Clem Richardson -- Daily News Staff Writer

Monday, March 07, 2011

The statistics read like some deadly math problem.

Nearly 60% of African-American children living in urban areas can't swim, according to a 2005 USA Swimming survey.

Add that to the fact that drowning ranks second - behind car crashes - as the leading cause of accidental death for children 14 and younger and the results are predictable.

African-American children 5 to 14 years old are three times as likely to drown than white children, according to a 2005 Centers for Disease Control study.

More than 3,400 people drown in the United States each year. Many of those who survive near drownings suffer permanent brain damage.

"The crime in all of this is that drowning is preventable," said Swim Strong Foundation co-founder and president Shawn Slevin. "I ask people why and you get a lot of different answers. I go scuba diving in Caribbean and a lot of people in the islands don't swim."

Closer to home, Slevin notes that in Far Rockaway, Queens, "there are hundreds of thousands of families that live within walking distance of the ocean and so many of them don't swim. How can you have that opportunity and not avail yourself of it?"

Swim Strong aims not just to teach children to swim, but how to swim competitively, Slevin said. "The thing is, once people get in the water, they regret waiting that long."

The foundation has a variety of programs aimed at enticing nonswimmers into the water, including "Get Ready, Get Wet," a 30-minute introduction to swimming for children who have never been in the water.

"They learn how to put their face in the water, how to breathe out of their noses and take air in through their mouths and just how to get long in the water," Slevin said.

The "getting long" idea comes from Slevin's swimming background. "I teach a competitive technique, not social swimming," she said. "It is about effective and efficient movement through the water. So children who get our training can go on to competitive programs."

Beginners learn basic freestyle, backstroke, breast stroke, butterfly, diving and flip turns.

About 100 students are currently enrolled in the year-round program; about the same number are expected to enroll for a 10-week program that starts March 26 and for summer activities at the three Swim Strong sites: Flushing Meadows Pool in Corona, Queens; Far Rockaway High School and Saint Francis College in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn. The programs cost $15 a half hour.

"It [enrollment] tends to drop off in the fall, maybe because summer is over," Slevin said. "But swimming is a year-round activity, the best womb-to-tomb sport."

Swim Strong was developed out of the swimming program Helen Coyne coached at St. Sebastian's Catholic Church in Woodside, Queens.

Slevin swam competitively in that program; then, when she aged out at 14, was persuaded by Coyne to stay on as a coach.

Slevin incorporated the program in 2006.

The New York Chamber of Commerce nominated Slevin as one of its 2011 "Inspiring Women" candidates. The winner will be named at ceremonies at Madison Square Garden on July 27.

For more information, see the website,

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Being Prepared and Trained Saves Lives

During the downwind leg of the third race, competitor Russell Dunleavy collapsed in brisk conditions of about 15-17 knots. His sailing partner Chris Gill, who was aware that Russell has a heart condition, immediately called for a chase boat which arrived quickly just after another Ideal sailed by Betsy Sorenson came along side. Betsy is a registered nurse who along with Chris commenced CPR.

Russell has had a heart condition for some time and carries nitro pills. Russell was unresponsive and was transferred to the chase boat and brought to Fayerweather Yacht Club (Bridgeport, CT) where he was further treated (defribbed, etc) and transferred to an ambulance to Bridgeport Hospital. The committee boat had called 911 and an ambulance was waiting at the dock.

Russell has made it thus far. He had four complete blockages hit while on the water. The doctors have said everybody's efforts saved him, and were certain that if his heart hadn’t been massaged the whole way back into the dock he wouldn't have made it. Apparently one of the blockages was opened by compressing him. He is now being stabilized for quadruple bypass surgery.

This reinforces that we can't predict things out there. Here were some of the discussion items following the incident:

- Anyone sailing that carries medication that may be required should make it aware to your sailing partner and make its location known to them. Fortunately, Chris knew this which helped him immediately realize the seriousness of the situation.

- Having two people on a chase boat was critical in saving Russell. Having a nurse on the water was vital too.

- Encouraging CPR certification within racing fleets.

- Carrying onboard horns or whistles might be needed to expedite initial assistance in stronger winds or larger race courses.

If not for the efforts by Chris Gill and Betsy Sorenson, and Charlie Gulotta and Greg Wykoff on the chase boat, this day of frostbiting could have turned out much worse.

Thanks to Cliff Crowley and Bill Sandberg for helping with this story.

- Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt