Pools, bathtubs, lakes, and oceans can provide people with hours of fun, yet these water-heavy spots can also be extremely dangerous. Pools, in particular, have proven deadly for young children, with many succumbing to drowning every summer. Yet, as indoor pools become more commonplace, drownings can happen all year long. Noting this, Rita Goldberg—who is the CEO of the British Swim School—decided to release a number of Water Safety Tips to help families all over the world stay safe during the holiday season.

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Although pools and bathtubs are the biggest risks, even outdoor fountains can prove deadly. Rita suggests that every adult should be aware of potential hazards like local rivers and waterways, drainage ditches, and even buckets.

Toddlers should never be left unattended and children should be taught to avoid watery locations when adults are not present. Moreover, when children go near water, an adult should always be there to supervise them. Even older children who are stronger swimmers should know a standard set of rules such as no roughhousing in the water, no running on slippery surfaces, and even avoiding breath-holding contests. Rita also recommends that adults learn CPR and train themselves to be aware of the signs of drowning as well as having a phone nearby to call 911 if need be.

Rita recently provided an exclusive interview where she discussed her suggestions for water safety and the importance of recognizing the risks.

Water safety and the British Swim School

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in water safety and how did you find your way to the British Swim School?

Rita Goldberg (RG): After an injury set my Olympic priorities back, I started teaching swimming lessons locally in England.

Due to my background in swimming, I later decided that I wanted to pursue lessons of my own - promoting water safety as an essential life skill in a fun, friendly environment.

In 1981, I opened my first British Swim School in the basement of my home in Manchester, and it was there that I began to develop the unique teaching methods that have become a recognized trademark of the brand. My initial focus was on teaching beginning swimmers of all ages that the ability to float on their back is the most important water survival skill of all. It enables all swimmers to rest, breathe and call for help, thus alleviating the “silent” danger of floating face down.

In the decades since, I have continued to develop, improve and fine-tune these methods, with a gradual, gentle and fun process. I have also focused on developing partnerships with national fitness clubs and a variety of other types of locations to grow the business into a national presence. The organization now holds nearly 13,000 lessons per week nationally, and conducted nearly a half million swimming lessons in 2016 for babies as young as three months through adults.

MM: What kind of training and experience did you have to have in order to become the CEO?

RG: My background is purely tied to swimming and the instructional lessons offered – becoming CEO of a franchise system was something I fell into by complete accident. I don’t think you can ever be fully prepared for a CEO role, as there are constant changes and things to learn. However, I’ve learned from previous mistakes and through trial and error, am discovering new things every day that help me become a better role model for the company.

MM: What about water safety most surprised you and what do you wish more parents knew?

RG: As parents, we all have a deep belief that “I am a good parent, this could never ever happen to me!” But that’s like saying "I am a good driver so an accident could never happen to me.”

Drowning accidents can and do happen to adored children. We can never be sure of anything – but over the last thirty-five years we do know that the method of rolling over and floating, with the ability to breathe and call for help, has averted many tragedies. We also know that all children can be taught this with great teaching and patience.

Pools, bathtubs, and hazards

MM: Pools and bathtubs are obvious hazards, but is it true that even yard fountains can also be dangerous?

RG: Yes, every body of water poses potential harm for children who are unprepared and uneducated with the basics of water safety and a like-minded skillset.

MM: You have stated that holding-your-breath games can be dangerous, but many kids still play those. Why do you think there is such a lack of awareness about these dangers?

RG: My problem with breath holding is this: If you teach a child to swim forward to a parent, a wall or a side of the pool while holding its breath, the danger is that if they ever fall into water and none of the above are available, the child will start to take in water and eventually drowning will occur. This is why British Swim School developed the method we use, which is rolling over and floating. This will save lives.

MM: What can adults do to keep kids safe and where can you learn CPR and, moreover, can kids learn CPR?

RG: There a few main tips to have in mind when attempting to keep children safe – including knowing when water hazards are present, teaching children to avoid water hazards, proper supervision, setting water-safe rules in place ahead of time, and preparing yourself for water emergencies. One which way to prepare yourself is CPR, and places where adults can learn this include community centers, through Red Cross, etc.

MM: How do you hope to continue raising awareness about water safety in the future?

RG: While developing British Swim School has its obvious advantages, my biggest excitement in growing the brand comes from the satisfaction in knowing that we are helping to save the lives of children all over the country, and teaching the essential life skill that is water safety. By expanding as we are, the more people we save and awareness we draw to a larger issue. British Swim School’s methods are able to be taught starting from three months upwards. We have huge success, while also advocating gentleness and fun! We feel that teaching swimming and survival should be the foundation of a lifelong love of water and not some short, sharp miserable experience.