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San Onofre children tap into beach, pool safety;

By Cpl. Travis A. Gannon | | May 4, 2000

The American Red Cross and lifeguards from San Onofre Beach and Horno Training Tank taught students at San Onofre Elementary School about water safety recently.

"Water Habits Are Learned Early" is the program?s slogan. With summer fast approaching, children need to know about safe behavior in and around the water.

One way to reduce drowning of children ages 5 to 14 is to teach water safety in elementary schools, according to the ARC. The Red Cross created "Longfellow's Whale Tales," a learning guide and video to teach children about water safety. Children learned several lessons about water safety from the Red Cross and the lifeguards.

Lifeguards from the Horno tank then taught the children about pool safety. Two of the biggest problems at the pool are running and a lack of parental supervision, said Cpl. Tom Clickenbeard, Horno lifeguard.

At the beach, everyone needs to be careful of glass in the sand and other dangers in the water, such as jellyfish and stingrays, said Tammy Booth, San Onofre lifeguard. Lifeguards taught children to shuffle their feet in the water to avoid stepping on stingrays. They also told children to watch the signs on the beach for possible dangers, such as undercurrents, riptides and surfing-only areas.

After presentations from lifeguards and Cosavich, the students watched a video about water safety.

Children were urged to swim with a buddy in a supervised area, because swimming alone is dangerous, since there is no one to help them if they get into trouble. The video also encouraged them to swim in areas near a parent or lifeguard.

Children also learned to identify and follow rules at the pool or beach. Longfellow, a blue whale and program mascot, told them, "Be cool, follow the rules."

Before swimming, children should look for lifeguards, safety equipment and currents, according to Longfellow. "Think, so you don't sink," was another lesson. Children should relax on their back, float and call for help if they get in trouble, according to the Red Cross.

If another child sees someone in trouble, he should reach with a pole or stick, or throw a buoy. "Reach or throw, don't go," Longfellow advised. Students learned the hazards of being in cold water and safe ways to respond to a cold-water emergency. "Cold can kill," Longfellow proclaimed. They were also taught to "hug" their knees and huddle together with a group of others in cold water to stay warm.

Students learned about boating rules and tried on different personal flotation devices.

Longfellow's last lesson was, "Learn about boating, before you go floating." Students were told to make sure their equipment was ready and in working order.