Swim Safely, by following my sister’s rules

by cv harquail on June 10, 2009

My sister Julia and her family spend the bulk of their summer at the New Jersey shore, biking between the pool at my dad’s house, the pool at the beach club, the river and the ocean. Only one of these locations has professional lifeguards– the rest of the time we all depend on sensible swimmers and alert adults to keep everyone safe.

Because once upon a time I actually was a certified lifeguard, Granny has taken to call this job “being the lifeguard”. To be perfectly clear, no body expects anyone but a professional to dive into a rip tide for a dramatic rescue. “Being the Lifeguard” at Granny’s pool means keeping an eagle eye on the swimmers, being ready to scream for help if needed or wade into the not all that deep water to drag a person to the side of the pool.

_3625_3577286386_745e5fccbb.jpg To man the lifeguard role, the adults– including my sister’s au pairs and my family’s au pairs — take turns. It becomes pretty important to be explicit about who’s on lifeguard duty, since we wander back and forth from the refrigerator, bathroom, dock and beach.

Usually my sister tries to stick me with the lifeguard duty so that she can lose herself in Linkin Park and a Dick Francis murder mystery. However, despite having once been a lifeguard, no one will pay me enough to do it, so we all end up taking turns.

Since we often have guests and other family members, we’ve had to devise some systems and rules for using the pool and for swimming in general.

They may sound officious, but in this case it’s much better to spell things out explicitly than to assume it’s all understood.

Pool Rules for Granny and Granddad’s

  1. There must be an adult outside if any child is outside by the pool. No one should ever swim alone, not even an adult. There should always be another person there in case of emergency.
  2. Some adult must always be ”officially” on duty as a lifeguard. Usually, this will be the au pair when she’s on duty; however, other adults will also be on duty when necessary. When an au pair is on duty, there will always be another adult near the pool or inside the house keeping an eye open for activity but not ‘in charge’ at poolside.
  3. When you are on lifeguard duty and you need to go inside, etc. you must either ask the children to get out of the pool OR ask another adult to take charge. When another adult takes charge, say out loud to the kids “Granny’s on lifeguard duty!” and make sure Granny agrees, Then, when you come back out, shout “I’m on lifeguard duty”. This way EVERYONE knows who is in charge and whether it is their turn. It seems dumb but it prevents people from assuming that Granddad is on duty when really he’s already asleep in the lounge chair.
  4. When you are on lifeguard duty, you must sit near the pool, ready to jump in. You may listen to music but only with one- not both- earphones in. (You must be able to hear the kids.) You may flip thru a magazine but not read a book—magazines are easy to put down, and books can get too absorbing.
  5. If any child disobeys your directions when you are on lifeguard duty, that child loses oopsicle privileges for the entire day.
  6. All of our kids know how to swim BUT you can’t expect them to be safe from drowning because they can swim. Children must be watched closely while swimming.
  7. The pool is too shallow for diving but the kids can jump in. No dunking or pushing people in the pool.
  8. No running on the concrete around the pool.
  9. Do not use flotation devices as a substitute for supervision.
  10. When anyone goes in or out of the gate, make sure that they close it tightly. Never prop open the gate — dogs and kids will wander away.
  11. Make sure we show you where the rescue equipment is located (on top of pool house). Also, make sure we show you how to use th_3302_3576480971_369de2ed9c.jpg e life-preservers and ropes that are stationed on the dock.
  12. If a child wants to play in the sand at the shore of the river, you must position yourself so that you can see both the child by the river and the kids in the pool. (Not as hard as it sounds). It is okay to wade in the river but not to go deeper than the child’s waist.
  13. Please make sure all of the children have sun screen before they go outside to the pool for the first time. The kids use 30 or higher sun screen. The kids think that they can do they own, but they always need help, especially with their backs. Please reapply sun screen after long swims or after a few hours.
  14. Children need to wear life preservers on the dock as well as in the boat or on the jet ski. No child can go out on the dock without your permission. Adults must wear life preservers on the jet ski and on the boat.
  15. Ask the kids to use the bathroom before they get in the pool.
  16. All toys must be put away before we leave. The kids should do clean up after themselves, with just a little help. Please check to make sure nothing is left in the pool.
  17. Towels should be brought outside and hung on the back of chairs to dry or placed in the washer. Please ask Granny her preference for that particular day. (It always depends on how much other laundry there is.) Towels should not be left inside on the floor (the kids often do this and it drives Granny crazy!)
  18. Granny does not allow eating anywhere but outside and the kitchen,
  19. Children should not go inside dripping wet – they must dry off a bit before going inside.
  20. If a child is missing, check the pool first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability. Go to the edge of the pool and look over the entire pool, bottom and surface, as well as the pool area. We have a telephone by the pool, use it to call 911 in an emergency.

Do you have any important pool rules? Please share!

Photos by Justalexanders, on Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/justalexanders/3576567892/


Hula Gal June 11, 2009 at 10:06 am

I wouldn’t trust my au pair to watch the kids in the pool. Even if we went through these guidelines with her (which was very helpful for you to share) I wouldn’t trust that she has the maturity to handle an emergency situation in the pool.

cv June 11, 2009 at 12:17 pm

HulaGal, that it probably the most important safety rule of all!!
Don’t leave anyone is charge who is not capable of being in charge!
This isn’t something to assume (even though I did just assume it….). it might also be good to give your AP a poolwatching drill, too, before putting her in charge.
Thanks for pointing this out.

Darthastewart June 11, 2009 at 1:51 pm

In addition to the safety rules mentioned above, I’ve seen some host families give their au-pairs a bit of direction on proper conduct and attire at the pool. Standards for what is acceptable attire vary quite a bit across cultures, so sometimes it’s necessary to go over these- i.e. the brasilian bikini that would be just fine, and possibly modest at home, is gonna be a bit hair raising by the community pool stateside.

Franzi June 11, 2009 at 2:35 pm

@darthastewart, i LOVE the bikini image you just invoked in me. this is so true! american pools are a microcosmos in themselves. for instance, in germany it is absolutely normal to take boys to the ladies changing room or to the ladies restroom for that matter. at my community pool that proved to be a tricky issue. the pool people thought that a 5 year old is ok to change by himself. my hostmom told me not to leave him alone. so what was i supposed to do, go to the men’s changing room with him???

regarding trusting the AP to lifeguard. ask her if she feels up to it as well! you might think she is a good swimmer and all. but she might prefer to share observing the pool with another adult.

also, i suggest you have your AP take a first aid class, preferably for infants/children. maybe even take it with her! not only does that remind everyone of the basics, but it also gives more self-esteem to actually act when there is an emergency.

Calif Mom June 11, 2009 at 3:24 pm

Really important stuff here, CV!

More tips and links to local classes at http://www.redcross.org

My only other suggestion is to move the last bullet to the top — if a kid can’t be spotted quickly, immediately search the pool, looking under the surface.

A boy in our metro area died last summer, while at a very busy pool, swimming with a buddy, which DID have a lifeguard on duty. His friend discovered him at the bottom of the pool, too late. This haunts me, especially because my kids are widely spaced, so they will be spending time in different parts of the pool this summer.

We haven’t had any pool trips yet, but thanks for the reminder to go over pool safety rules with both the kids and au pair!

The living is easy, right? oy.

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