Fun in the sun starts with safety
Caroline Smarr is one of 15 lifeguards at Palmetto Falls Water Park. Lifeguards go through 33 hours of extensive training and are required to learn every aspect of lifesaving. Water safety is important to remember during the 101 Days of Summer, which run Memorial Day through Labor Day.

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- As summer officially begins Tuesday, more and more families will be heading out for weekend trips and water excursions.

But while family members have a good time, employees with the post’s various water facilities are urging them to stay safe.

“Be aware of your swimming level,” said Amanda Orduno, Fort Jackson assistant aquatics director. “Watch your children as they play because parents are the first set of eyes on the water.”

The best precaution, she said, is to learn to swim. Swimming lessons are offered on post through Child, Youth and School Services for children from 6 months to 18 years.

In addition, the Army Safety Center website encourages swimmers to wear a flotation device while swimming and swim with a buddy, regardless of ability.

“We encourage people to use Coast Guard approved life vests while in the water here,” said Sang Pak, manager of the water park. Many drowning accidents are preventable through use of flotation devices.

For visitors to any of the post’s water facilities, the presence of red-suited lifeguards shows just how key safety is for the installation.

Lifeguards at the Fort Jackson water facilities have gone through strenuous training to respond quickly to possible drowning issues.

“Many people have a hard time passing the prerequisite test of swimming just to get into the course,” Orduno said. “They have to swim 20 meters, dive down to retrieve a brick and swim back with the brick over their heads.”

During the 33-hour training, lifeguard trainees are tested on their ability to execute the lifesaving techniques they are taught.

“One of the hardest parts of lifeguard training for some is the passive drowning rescue, when the drowning victim is unconscious and sometimes deep under water,” said Orduno. “By the end of training, lifeguards know every aspect of lifesaving.”

Once on the lifeguard stand, they are the safety and rule enforcers for the Fort Jackson water facilities.

“No horseplay and no running are the most important rules to follow at the water park,” Pak said. “We don’t want anyone to fall on the pool deck and get hurt which could lead to many other injuries when they get in the water.”

Some injuries involving water can result from alcohol use, which should be avoided while boating or swimming because it slows reflexes and breathing, making it easier to drown.

The water park lifeguards also take breaks to stay healthy in the high temperatures.

“There are 15 lifeguards who rotate through the lifeguard stands here and they take a 30 minute break for every two hours in the sun,” said lifeguard Travis Horne.

The periodic breaks help protect against injuries like dehydration, heat stroke, and sunburn. The Army Safety Center recommends drinking water and applying sunscreen during breaks from time in the sun to stay healthy throughout the summer.

“Summertime is about having fun,” Pak said. “We just want everybody to be safe playing here or wherever they go this summer.”

Page last updated Thu June 16th, 2011 at 00:00