Olympic gold medal swimmer urging pool safety

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Local swim instructors have a big goal: To make sure every child in our area knows how to swim.

We live in a state where more kids die from drowning than anywhere else in the country.

As you head to the pool or beach this summer, local swim instructors are urging you to be on the lookout.

Brooke Bennett, a 3-time Olympic gold medalist, is making big waves in our community. Bennett heads up swim academies in Brandon, Tampa and Clearwater.

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In Brooke Bennett's swim academy, the little swimmers start as young as 4 months old.

Bennett suggests parents make swim lessons as much of a priority for their babies as pediatrician visits. “Especially living in a state surrounded by water on three sides where our drowning rate is three times higher,” Bennett elaborated.

More kids between 1 and 5 die from drowning, than any other cause of death. Yet, drowning is 100% preventable.

A CDC study found kids who take swim lessons are 88% less likely to drown.

Before they can crawl, walk or talk, the 4 month olds in Brooke Bennett's swim academy are submerged underwater, floating and pulling themselves up on the wall of the swimming pool.
There can be a lot of tears, but the babies are learning valuable lessons that can save their lives.

Here’s some of Bennett’s suggestions to keep your kids safe:

-Teach your children to swim to the wall. Swimming to parents or grandparents isn’t reliable if your child falls into the pool. They need to think of the wall as their safe place.

-Always spend 10 minutes showing your child around a pool that is unfamiliar to them (a friend or relatives pool, a resort pool etc.)

-Designate a parent to be on “pool watch patrol” at parties. That parent must watch the water at all times.

-Get your child used to the water. It’s safe to practice water safety with a 4 month old. By 6 months old, Bennett says it is safe to submerge the child briefly under close supervision.

-The best thing to teach your child is to flip onto their back, float, then find the wall and climb up to safety

-Only use Coast Guard approved water floatation vests. Throw away the blow up floaties. They can slip off.

“We want to teach them not to walk into water. We teach them right from wrong and they need to learn the water is off limits without a parent or guardian,” Bennett explained.

Later this summer, Bennett is going to roll out a new program to offer very reduced rates for swim lessons for families.

Also this summer in Hillsborough County, The Children's Board just started offering something called Mobile Swim Lessons. Those are free lessons where swim instructors come right to the kids at apartment complex and other private community pools.