Diving in to teach water safety skills

By Kristin Alexander

Learning to swim can be fun, especially for kids. Most of us have fond memories of splashing around in the neighborhood pool or lake. But knowing how to swim can also be a lifesaver. In the last century, the American Red Cross has helped to reduce accidental drownings by nearly 90 percent nationwide.

“Emergencies occur when least expected. The only way to be prepared is to have the knowledge and know-how to apply it. There is no minimum age for a person to learn lifesaving skills,” said Tatyana Kiselyov, a Red Cross aquatics specialist.

Few understand that more than the Osborn family of Kennewick, WA. Just last summer, their 6 year old daughter saved a cousin from drowning in the family pool. Her actions inspired a Certificate of Extraordinary Action from the American Red Cross. You can read more about it at this link.

Thousands of licensed partners provide Red Cross Aquatics training throughout the country. Once they teach more than 1,000 students annually, they are recognized as Gold Level “Learn to Swim” providers. Twenty-two Washington state partners earned the distinction in 2018.

The Red Cross Northwest Region recently recognized them and others that offer swim lessons, life-guarding training and CPR certifications at a ceremony, including the City of Covington.

Tatyana Kiselyov presents a plaque to Kaila Destefano and the City of Covington

Kaila Destefano, Covington’s aquatics specialist, said the city offers lessons every day of the week with no breaks. She believes demand is high partly because there are so many bodies of water in the region.

“People really see the value in learning the skill from a safety angle but also recreational,” she said. “It improves people’s quality of life.”

Before Andrea Robertson was hired as safety class coordinator for Lynnwood Parks and Recreation five years ago, the city didn’t have much of an aquatics program. “They were really feeling the impact of not running as many classes as they could,” she said.

That changed under Robertson’s leadership. Last year, the city certified 904 people in lifeguarding, CPR and other safety skills, which earned Lynnwood the top training provider award out of more than 400 providers in the Northwest.

Robertson said one of the most rewarding aspects of her job is seeing the students blossom. “I am very blessed to have a job I love doing,” she said.

All of the training providers play an important role in making our communities safer.

“Thank you to these training providers for spreading this essential knowledge and empowering individuals to respond when the unexpected occurs,” Kiselyov said.

To sign up for a class to improve or maintain the safety of you and others, visit the Red Cross website.

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