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City Emphasizes Water Safety as Summer Approaches

‘Emergency preparedness is a top priority at this facility,’ says City spokesperson at new John J. Kennedy Pool

Published on Friday, May 24, 2024 | 6:00 am

In anticipation of hot summer days to come, Pasadena Parks, Recreation and Community Services joined the Pasadena Public Health Department and Pasadena Fire Department Thursday at the new John J. Kennedy Pool, to remind Pasadenans of the importance of water safety, and the ease of learning to swim in Pasadena.

Drowning impacts people of all ages. According to the Pasadena Public Health Department, there were 31 drowning-caused deaths between 2007-2022 among people living in Pasadena. Among those, almost 26% were children under 18 years old and 39% were adults 65 years and older. Thus, supervision and awareness are crucial for any person in the water.    

Mayor Victor Gordo recently named May as Water Safety Month in Pasadena.

“Highlighting water safety is one of the many ways our community comes together to promote awareness with fun and safe recreation for all,” said Koko Panossian, director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services. “Our city joins communities nationwide in a proactive effort to prevent drownings and accidents occurring in the water.”

Jennifer Colby, public information coordinator for the Pasadena Parks Recreation and Community Services Department, said of the new year-round pool, “Emergency preparedness is a top priority at this facility.”  

Colby explained that Pasadena lifeguards are trained by American Red Cross instructors in CPR for the professional rescuer, emergency medical response, and administering oxygen in emergency situations. They also undergo state-mandated public safety training and receive their aquatic facility operator certification. 

“Now, as summer approaches,” Colby continued,  “it’s crucial to think of water safety. Whether you’re visiting the beach, a local swimming pool, or enjoying your pool home, any person in the water is at risk of injury and the best defense is to take proactive steps by enrolling your family in swim lessons in first aid training, practicing safe habits in the water, and understanding the rules of the site that you’re planning to swim at.”

Cristina Alvarado, director of programming at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center, said, “It remains vital to consistently spread this message in order to safeguard the children in our community. 

Alvarado added that the National Drowning Prevention Alliance has just launched its first campaign, with a simple, yet profound message: “Swimming should be every child’s first sport.” 

“It’s about more than just sports,” said Alvarado. “It’s about teaching kids a vital life-saving skill. Swimming shouldn’t be seen as optional. As community leaders, it’s up to us to ensure that swimming lessons remain accessible and affordable for everyone.” 

Pasadena offers financial assistance to make learning to swim possible, she added, and said that students with special needs now have the opportunity to learn how to swim.

“It’s not only possible,”said Alvarado. “It’s essential for these children to become proficient swimmers and learn water safety skills. While it may require some extra time and innovative teaching methods, it’s absolutely achievable.”

Alvarado said that several RoseBowl Aquatics team members have recently completed the Adaptive Swim Lesson training through Swim Angelfish.

Jason Hansen,  Pasadena Fire Department emergency medical services battalion chief, pointed out that the first key to water safety is “Never swim alone. You should always have somebody with you, whether they’re in the pool, or you have somebody on the pool deck watching you swim, just as a secondary means, in case something does happen. 

“Lifeguards,” he explained, “while they may be present, as we have here at the pool, are not a primary source of protection for your swimmers. The family member should be your primary,  and your backup would be the lifeguards that are on the site.” 

To illustrate the point, The Pasadena aquatics team recreated a scenario with inattentive parents, who don’t notice their child in the water until the child is in trouble. In the scenario, lifeguards and paramedics responded quickly after the parents realized the danger, and applied a rhythmic chest compression on the victim while waiting for a rescue ambulance to arrive.

“Teach your children to have a healthy respect for the water,” said Hansen. “They should ask permission before they get into the water or if they’re going to get near the water, they should ask for permission as well. 

“You should always be a water watcher,” Hansen continued.  “Provide close contact and constant attention to your children. Supervise them and avoid any distractions in this day and age. With tablets and cell phones, you need to focus on your children that are in the daughter because a child can drown without making any sound.”

Dr. Matt  Feaster, epidemiologist with the Pasadena Public Health Department, also pointed out the importance of clean and safe water for swimming, reminding the gathered media of the dangers of diarrhea or the presence of legionella in untested waters and pools. Legionella, a type of bacteria, causes Legionnaires’ disease and Pontiac fever. The bacteria can form in hot tubs, decorative fountains and water features such as slides. 

Dante Augustyn, Pasadena lifeguard, demonstrated a simple pool testing kit recommended for home pool owners to use regularly.

More information on City-sponsored swim lessons is available here.

Here are pool safety tips complied from various official sources:

  • Enroll in swim lessons to learn basic swimming skills
  • Follow all rules posted at the pool, beach, or recreational swimming location
  • Never swim alone; keep a swim buddy or guardian close by
  • Never dive head-first into water less than nine feet deep
  • Choose a U.S. Coast Guard-approved floatation device instead of water wings inflatables
  • Avoid swimming after consuming alcohol or medications that cause disorientation
  • To prevent the spread of waterborne illnesses, avoid swimming if you feel sick or are experiencing diarrhea
  • Parents must always supervise their children, even if there are lifeguards on duty
  • If a child is missing, always check the water first
  • Designate an official “Water Watcher” to supervise children in the pool at all times
  • Install proper pool fencing and safety covers/drain covers
  • Learn CPR and basic water rescue skills
  • Check weather/water conditions before swimming in open water
  • Wear life jackets for boating and open water activities
  • Teach children about unique hazards of open water like currents, drop-offs, etc.

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