Kids swimming
Posted June 13, 2017 | 3:55 PM

Throw Your Child a Lifeline This Summer

County partners bring water-safety instruction to a pool near you

Summertime fun quickly can turn to tragedy with the potentially lethal combination of swimming pools and unattended young children.

Drowning is the leading cause of preventable deaths among Tampa Bay area girls and boys ages 1-5. More than 40 local children younger than 6 have drowned in the past five years.

Protect children from potential danger by ensuring they don't roam near the water's edge without supervision, and by lining up swimming lessons at an early age from a qualified instructor.

The Children's Board of Hillsborough County can help.

This is the third summer the Board and its partners, including Hillsborough County government, have offered the Mobile Water Safety program. Here's how it works: Certified instructors go to pools at community centers, apartment complexes, and elsewhere to give free lessons in basic water safety/swimming skills. Children ages 3-14 are eligible.

Up to 24 children may participate in each 45-minute session.

Statistics show it's worth the effort. With proper instruction, the likelihood a child drowns drops as much as 88 percent.

The Children's Board contracts with Tampa Area Metropolitan YMCA to run the program.

The YMCA's Amanda Walker oversees Mobile Water Safety training. The goal, she says, is to eliminate barriers that can prevent parents from getting their kids into water safety or swim classes, challenges such as transportation issues, a hectic work schedule, and other deterrents.

High participation numbers indicate that sending instructors to the places where people live is working.

Twenty-four sites are scheduled to host classes this summer. Additional inquiries for site locations go on a waiting list. Call (813) 224-9622, extension 1278, to find out more about the Mobile Water Safety program.

CPR instruction for teens and adults also is available. Call (813) 229-2884.

While swimming pools pose the greatest risk of drowning among young children, other dangers loom - many of them close to home, where two-thirds of young children who drown are last seen. Retention ponds, bathtubs, toilets, and anything else that holds water, even a pet's bowl, can be deadly.

The Children's Board's effort to stop accidental drownings is part of its initiative to curb three types of preventable deaths. Find more information.