FORT BELVOIR, Va. (May 24) -- For most Americans, summer traditionally begins with Memorial Day weekend. Schools are about to close for the season and outdoor recreation moves to the top of the priority list.

A hallmark of Memorial Day is the start of another season of water activities as area pools and beaches, undoubtedly among the most popular gathering places for youth to spend summer days with friends, open en masse.

In the fun and freedom of summer vacation, however, it is often easy to forget the most important aspect of enjoying a memorable vacation, safety. Additionally, no form of recreation demands a greater appreciation of staying cautious, alert and prepared than water sports.

According to Tina Robinson, Fort Belvoir aquatics director, the most vital safety concern is supervision.

"Parents, watch your kids, you are their first lifesaver," she said. "A lot of parents have a false sense of security, just because there are lifeguards on duty they think they don't have to watch their children and that is just not the case. Also, any non-swimming child or a child using flotation devices needs to be within arm's reach of an adult at all times."

Robinson added that taking a few common sense precautions can ensure that water accidents and injuries can be avoided.

"Sunscreen is especially important for the little ones with tender skin. It's important for everyone to remember that water and alcohol never mix, whether they're boating, at the beach or at the swimming pool. If you're boating, always wear a personal floatation device (or life jacket)."

Fort Belvoir's Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and its Aquatics Program office provided additional guidelines that can aid in ensuring every one, of all ages, stays safe in the water this summer.

The official rules and regulations governing the 2012 pool season (available online by visiting www.belvoirmwr.com/Facilities/Pools/ and clicking "Rules") are a useful source for children and their parents to learn the safest ways to approach swimming.

DFMWR rules state that children under the age of 16 must pass a swim test administered by a certified water safety instructor on their first visit to the pool this season. Upon successful completion of the test, children will be noted in a log book, given a colored wrist band and will not have to complete the test again at any of the pools on Fort Belvoir.

Aquatics Program officials remind swimmers that certain behaviors can be invitations to water accidents, as well, and have established a set of strict guidelines regarding them. According to the rules; horseplay, splashing, pushing in, shoving, sitting on shoulders, throwing swimmers or dunking, will not be allowed. No running or other endangering behavior will be permitted at any time in the pool area or locker rooms. The determination of the types of behavior which could be dangerous is subject to the discretion of staff members on duty.

A dedication to caution and common sense, as well as respecting and heeding lifeguards, can greatly reduce the dangers inherent in any water activity and can help ensure that everyone enjoys a fun and healthy summer vacation.

Fort Belvoir's pools officially open Saturday and the 2012 swim season runs through Labor Day, Sept.1. For additional information regarding the pool facilities on post, including operating hours, call the North Post Pool at (703) 806-5013, Benyaurd Pool at (703) 805-2620 and the Officers Club Pool at (703) 780-0930.

Page last updated Thu May 24th, 2012 at 00:00