Safety standards crucial for water activities

19 Aug 2011 | Cpl. Miranda Blackburn

The end of summer is near but, nonetheless, people are still rushing to pools and outdoor swimming areas to escape the North Carolina heat. However, many patrons aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune do not take the proper safety precautions into consideration, which could possibly cost them their lives.

According to, the web site for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 10 people die from unintentional drowning every day. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger. Drowning is the sixth leading cause of unintentional injury death for people of all ages, and the second leading cause of death for children ages one to 14 years.

“Last month we had an unconscious swimmer,” said Sam O’Leary, Outdoor Recreation Branch head, Semper Fit Division, Marine Corps Community Services. “The incident was due to holding their breath underwater and trying to swim (for an extended period of time.) That is not an isolated incident aboard the base. We don’t want you to hold your breath for a prolonged period of time because you can blackout and go unconscious, causing you to breathe in the water, which is the act of drowning.”

Of all the safety precautions people can take, Kari Hemund, an aquatic program specialist for Headquarter Marine Corps, said supervision is the most important.

Supervision is important even when there are lifeguards at the pool. While lifeguards enhance safety, their ability to safeguard swimmers has limitations. It is often that another swimmer or bystander first notices that someone is drowning.

“It’s all about prevention,” said O’Leary. “Lifeguarding is about preventing accidents from happening. If a lifeguard here at Camp Lejeune never has to jump in the pool to rescue someone, that’s because they’re doing their job.”

Children should have a designated responsible adult to watch them while in the bath and swimming or playing in or around water. Supervisors of preschool-aged children should be close enough to reach the child at all times.

Adults should not be involved in any other distracting activity while supervising children.

Supervision by a lifeguard or designated water watcher is important to protect young children when they are in the water, but when children are not supposed to be in the water, supervision alone isn’t enough to keep them safe.

Among children ages one to four, most drowning occurs in residential swimming pools. Most young children who drowned in pools were last seen in the home, had been out of sight less than five minutes and were in the care of one or both parents at the time.

Barriers such as pool fencing should be used to help prevent young children from gaining access to the pool area without caregivers’ awareness.

According to, there is an 83 percent reduction in the risk of childhood drowning with a four-sided isolation pool fence, compared to three-sided property line fencing.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission also provides a list of tips to create swimming safety awareness. To view the list, visit

A list of rules listed at base pools includes:
• Children under the age of 10 must be accompanied by a person 16 years or older.
• Lap lanes are for lap swimming only. Lap swimmers must continuously swim from wall to wall using any stroke or combination of strokes.
• No unit training shall be conducted during recreational or lap swim times.
• All patrons must comply with the directions of the lifeguard staff.
• Do not run on the pool deck.
• The lifeguard must approve of all floats, balls, toys and other water sport devices.
• No street shoes or boots are to be worn on the pool deck.
• Abusive profane or obscene language or conduct is prohibited.
• Do not hang on the safety lane line or use any of the lifesaving equipment, except in the case of an emergency.
• No fraternizing with the lifeguards.
• Pushing or pulling patrons into the water or horseplay of any kind in the pool or on the deck is not allowed.
• While using the diving platform or diving board, only one patron shall be on the platform or board at a time, only forward, single-jump diving and jumping is permitted, divers must allow the previous diver time to reach the edge of the pool before diving and must swim to the edge of the pool after diving.