On Your Side with pool, water safety for children as summer nears

Published: May. 1, 2023 at 4:31 PM CDT|Updated: May. 1, 2023 at 4:49 PM CDT
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WBRC) - An utterly sad story out of Tampa Bay, Florida, Monday morning. News reports say the daughter of a NFL player drowned in the family pool over the weekend. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers says linebacker Shaquil Barrett’s two-year old daughter accidentally fell in the pool and drowned.

With the summer swimming season just around the corner, this brings us to the importance of pool safety.

The Bowers Pool Complex is in Tuscaloosa, and in just a few weeks, thousands of children will make this their favorite swimming hole starting Memorial Day Weekend.

It is always in the back of Mark Harrison’s mind, the unthinkable thought of losing a child to drowning.

“In the minds of our lifeguards as well,” said Harrison.

Mark Harrison is the Director of Aquatics for Parks & Recreation Authority (PARA), the man in charge of six public swimming pools under PARA’s command. Harrison has a number that should concern of all us who like to swim.

“According to the CDC, between 2010 and 2019, Alabama has had almost 4,000 drowning deaths,” said Harrison.

Drowning deaths were in all bodies of water in Alabama, including pools, lakes, rivers, and the Gulf.

As Harrison spends his time now getting all the pools ready for the summer, he reminds parents and children to put safety first.

“Children should always be supervised when they’re at the pool, and parents and guardians do not need to get distracted when kids are at the pool and need to be monitored the whole time,” he said.

Mark Harrison also added all non-swimmers need to wear Coast Guard approved life-jackets. If they don’t have one, Harrison says PARA pools offer life jackets. And to further enhance pool safety, kids are required to take a swim test before going in the deep end for the first time.

Lifeguards play a critical role in pool safety. PARA requires them to take 39 hours worth of training before giving them the command the pool and a whistle.

“And that includes water safety, water rescue,” he said.

Opening day for PARA pools is four weeks away which means Mark Harrison has one singular mission: keep it safe, starting on day one.

Mark Harrison says during the summer PARA swimming pools will have a combined total of around 120 lifeguards.

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