[Small town] girl nearly drowns in YMCA pool

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Each year approximately 1500 children drown in the U.S. As we all know, a drowning can occur nearly anywhere. Yet, the natural inclination is to believe that one will not happen in our own community, especially at our own JCC. Awareness of the threat's reality is critical. Reinforcing proven prevention strategies is an essential element in protecting the kids in our programs. Both are the goals for our “Aquatic Alert” program. Each is a brief treatment of the topic, focusing on a real, recent, public event… reprinting the published article in its entirety (omitting only direct references to the individual organization) and providing a few important teaching points for you to share with your staff.


The following news article appeared in a major mid-western newspaper:

“[Small town] girl nearly drowns in YMCA pool”

Thursday, January 3, 2002

“A 12-year-old [town] girl who was pulled from the YMCA swimming pool Monday night remained in critical condition Wednesday at a [nearby city] hospital.

[Victim], of 820 Ella St., was taken to [first] Medical Center and transferred to [second] Medical Center in [city].

At 9:02 p.m. Monday, [town] police responded to a call of a juvenile drowning victim at the YMCA at [address].

A lifeguard told police she pulled the girl from the pool and began performing CPR. [Victim] was playing a game with other children to see who could hold their breath under water the longest.

Authorities said [victim] suffered lung damage when she breathed in water.”


A follow-up news article said the following:

“No changes being considered at pool after near drowning”

“A [town] YMCA official said the organization is not considering any immediate policy changes following the near-drowning of a 12-year-old girl on New Year's Eve.

”[YMCA spokesman], executive director for the YMCA, said the lifeguard and staff acted quickly after [victim], 820 Ella St., went under water during a children's game but failed to come up for air.

“'I feel the staff and the lifeguard responded immediately to the incident. By that time, the ambulance was there to take over,' [YMCA spokesman} said. 'Our thoughts and our prayers are with her and her family.'

”[Victim] was one of 11 children taking part in a New Year's stay-over event at the YMCA.

“At 9:02 p.m., emergency medical staff responded to a call about a near drowning.

"According to police reports, [victim] was playing a game with other children to see who could hold their breath under water the longest.

"The lifeguard told police that when the girl failed to come up for air, she pulled her from the pool.

"Paramedics took [victim] to [first] Medical Center. She was transferred to [second] Medical Center in [a neighboring city].

”[Victim], who inhaled water into her lungs, remained in critical condition Thursday.“


What this article teaches us is:

  • Fact: A child needed CPR and has inhaled water in her lungs.

    • The timeliness of the “save” will probably be questioned because CPR was needed.
  • Fact: A new group had entered the organization’s pool due to a New Year’s Eve program.

    • “Stuff” happens when there is a change in plan or routine; the facility should have been extra alert.
  • Fact: The near drowning occurred when the children decided to play a “hold your breath” game.

    • Incident prevention is the primary task of a lifeguard; emergency response is secondary. Control of the situation is critical. Lifeguards always should be aware of all the activity in their area of responsibility and should not allow activity or games that are imprudent or dangerous, including any games that involve prolonged breath holding.
    • Inadequate scanning may also have been a factor in the incident. The guard should evaluate all areas within his/her area of responsibility every 10 seconds: above water, below water, and on the pool bottom.
  • Fact: The organization’s comment to the media expressed good concern for the victim and family.

    • Responding to media questions is difficult; this organization’s facility expressed care and concern for the victim and family.

Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at www.redwoodsgroup.com to learn more about JCC risk management issues.

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