Snow Day. Two words that often mean freedom and fun in the dead of winter, with an agenda that includes building a snowman, sledding on neighborhood hills and playing outside with friends. Nine-year-old Zachary Allen went to a friend’s house to play on a snow day. Zachary and his two friends were sledding in the backyard and walked onto a retention pond near their homes in a Powell neighborhood.
Despite previous conversations with his parents about not going near the pond, Zachary’s curiosity got them best of him and he followed the other children onto the ice where it appeared frozen. Tragically, he fell into the frigid water. Zachary was able tread water while he determined the best route out of the water and swim to the side of the pond. He also had the endurance and strength to swim 20 feet from the edge, breaking ice along the way, all while carrying the weight of his snow clothes saturated with frigid water.
The paramedics were called. Zachary’s mom Lindsey said, “the moment Zachary came home sobbing and saying he fell into the pond, I remember thinking to myself, I have to stay calm and get his clothes off of him. Don’t panic. Don’t scare him. As soon as he went upstairs I crumbled. I could not believe that he went onto the pond. I was distraught, terrified, angry and every emotion in between. It was the scariest moment of our lives.”
So often we talk about water safety when it comes to being at the pool or beach in the summer. And as parents we assume that if we talk to our children about not going on a frozen pond, they never will.
Prepare your children with ways to get out of a situation if it were to occur: whether it be removing themselves from a peer pressure situation, or getting out of the water if their curiosity did get the best of them and they walked on the ice and fell through. Never go in after your friend. Immediately find an adult and call 911.
Zachary had been taking perpetual lessons at Goldfish Swim School for 30 minutes once a week for nine months. When he started swim lessons, he was a beginner in every sense of the word, and Zachary’s lessons have given him confidence in the water, and he has learned key survival skills that, according to Lindsey, saved his life. For example, when Zachary fell into the pond he knew to look for the water’s edge where he came from, keep his head above water, kick his feet and tread water.
Zachary was incredibly brave that day, and we’re grateful that he has been willing to share his story to help other children and families learn from his mistake. He has started to see himself as a hero who is helping others instead of as a victim of his poor choices. He will tell anyone who will listen, “I will never go on a frozen pond again.”
Winter water safety is a serious issue and we have a responsibility to create awareness to help keep kids safe when they play outside this winter. Retention ponds are everywhere these days. To kids they look like skating rinks, and what many people don’t realize is they are never safe to walk on. However, it’s important to talk to kids about what to do if they find themselves in a similar situation.
Winter Water Safety Tips for Parents:
- Adult Supervision– A drowning child usually cannot cry or shout for help, so never turn your back on your child around water, including ice. Assign a Designated Watcher so there are never questions about which adult is responsible for watching the child.
- Swim Lessons – As young as four months old, enroll children in swim lessons. Teach children water acclimation and aquatic survival skills designed to help them survive should they reach the water alone.
- Stay off of Ice. Unless a lake or pond has been designated for skating and is certified for thickness and safety, don’t go out on the ice. Never walk on rivers or retention ponds. Conditions change ice thickness over night or between different parts of the water.
- Have an Emergency Plan– Plan and practice what to do if someone falls through the ice. Call paramedics right away even if the child appears ok physically. Learn infant and child CPR. Keep rescue equipment, a phone and emergency numbers nearby.
- Conversations with Caretakers and Kids– If your child goes to a friend’s house to play, ask the adult what kinds of activities they will engage in, and specifically, if they will be around water/ice, and make sure the children are supervised. When traveling to relatives’ and friends’ homes they may not understand the importance of keeping gates closed, doors locked, etc. Start a conversation with your kids about water safety and share tips with them about what to do if they fall into water.
Author: Lisa Armitage
Author Bio: Lisa was a stay-at-home mom to three young children in Michigan, and while her kids were taking lessons at Goldfish Swim School, she fell in love with the program. Swimming is a life skill and water safety is a huge priority for Lisa and her husband, Steve, and she loved that water safety is incorporated into every class at Goldfish from babies to 12 year olds. Leveraging her business and marketing education background and inspired by her mother who was a longtime business owner, Lisa opened her first Goldfish Swim School in Dublin, Ohio nearly three years ago, and a second location in Westerville, Ohio last year. The business continues to grow and thrive here in central Ohio.
Lisa is a vocal advocate for year-round water safety in the community, and regularly speaks with community organizations, business groups, scout troops, media outlets and blogs about the topic. Lisa and her team have conducted more than 100 free water safety presentations at local schools, reaching thousands of children. This is a huge passion and priority for Lisa and a primary reason the business is so engrained in the communities it serves. Lisa, her staff and Goldfish Swim School members also partner throughout the year on an array of non-profit service initiatives.
Link to social media or website: https://dublin.goldfishswimschool.com