Safety Moment: Water Safety & the Safe Swim Defense

Pools, lakes, ponds, rivers, and beaches mean summer fun and cool relief from hot weather. Water also can be dangerous for Scouts if adult leadership does not take the proper precautions.

National statistics show that nearly 1,000 children die each year by drowning, the second leading cause of accidental death for people between the ages of 5 and 24.

Those deaths are especially tragic since the risk factors for drowning are often easily avoided. Unfortunately, many youth and adults do not fully appreciate the hazards for common swimming situations.

Do you know…

  1. How a drowning non-swimmer behaves in deep water after being pushed in, stepping off a drop off, or falling off an inflatable toy?
    Many drowning victims are unable to call out for help and unable to reach for or move toward safety just a few feet away.
  2. Why breath-holding contests are dangerous?
    Extended, deep breathing leads to hyperventilation, which may cause a person to lose consciousness while underwater.
  3. What factors can cause even a good swimmer to drown in calm water?
    Medical conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, or seizures may occur with little or no warning. Therefore, it is always prudent to swim with a buddy.
  4. Why drowning is still possible in a pool with trained lifeguards on duty?
    Swimming venues patrolled by trained lifeguards are generally safe, but lifeguards watching large numbers in a large area may become distracted, or fail to recognize that someone is in trouble. Swimming with a buddy puts an extra set of eyes watching everyone.

The ways to prevent and respond to water emergencies are covered in the revised online Safe Swim Defense training. If you last reviewed that training prior to June of 2012, you should check out the latest version with video footage, which replaces cartoons with video footage. While the guidelines have not changed, the revised training module provides additional detail and clarity.

BSA policies require unit swimming activities to be supervised by adults with current Safe Swim Defense training. However, this training also provides important information for family swimming events and may be taken by anyone.

Although drowning occurs year-round, summer is the prime season. Help keep your unit, family, and friends safe by following the safety guidelines found in Scouting’s Safe Swim Defense.

Are you familiar with the “The Eight Defenses” of Safe Swim Defense?

Familiarize yourself with and review the Safe Swim Defense here.

Before a BSA group may engage in swimming activities of any kind, a minimum of one adult leader must complete Safe Swim Defense training, have a commitment card with them, and agree to use the eight defenses in this plan. Safe Swim Defense must be renewed every 2 years.

Have a safe and exciting scouting summer!

Contributed by the Montana Council’s Enterprise Risk Management Committee.

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  1. J. Mick Epperson says:

    Very important that the RULES are followed. AT LEAST one adult needs to be “Safe Swim Defense” trained and a Card Carrier.
    Have fun. Be Safe.

  2. Stanley Stolpe says:

    High altitude lakes pose another problem. I recall being in New Mexico and the wind was blowing a raft away from shore. I jumped in and swam to recover the raft and to my surprise found myself seriously out of breadth. Smart enough to know to roll over on my back, I had to let the raft go. Altitude takes its toll on us physically and needs to be part of risk mitigation when taking youth to altitudes they are not used to.

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