Swimming safely

By Janet Bresenham: Freedom New Mexico

With warmer temperatures and summer on the way, more and more children and adults will be seeking refuge from the heat and fun in the sun at pools and lakes throughout the region.

Potter Park Pool has been cleaned and inspected and is opening at 1 p.m. today. The Portales city pool opened earlier this week.

Cindy Meeks, interim director of the American Red Cross office in Clovis, wants to get the word out about the importance of knowing how to stay safe in and around the water.

“I was an aquatics director for 15 years and I continue to instruct classes, so water safety is a big concern for me,” Meeks said. “The more safety training we can offer, the safer our communities will be.”

For Meeks, who grew up in a family of synchronized swimmers in Oregon, being around the water is second nature.

“I was actually raised along the Pacific Ocean on the West Coast and I was always near water,” Meeks said. “Where I went to school, we even had swimming lessons at school and daily use of a pool.”

The American Red Cross sponsors various levels of swimming lessons, lifeguard training classes and other water safety courses in Clovis, Portales, Cannon Air Force Base and throughout the five-county region her office serves, Meeks said.

Clovis aquatic specialist Sheila Holley said she and her staff are going to expand the hours and services at Potter Pool as well as Clovis Aquatic Center.

“What we want is to make the pool feasible for everybody,” Holley said. “Some lap swimmers like to go outside during the summer.”

Holley said swimming lessons will be offered at both pools this summer.

Clay Hawk, who supervises the Portales city pool in the summer and the Clovis Community College Health and Fitness Center year-round, said he hopes more adults, as well as children, will take advantage of swimming lessons and water safety courses.

“For the adults, we have swimming classes in the evenings after work at the Portales pool where they can swim without any kids around so they can be relaxed about learning,” Hawk said. “For the kiddos, my main hope is that they all get comfortable around the water and not scared and that they get used to being in the water.”

Meeks said that with the increasing number of children going swimming regularly as school gets out for the summer, “it’s really important that they’re familiar with the swimming pool facility rules and attend swimming lessons if they can to stay safe and prevent emergencies from happening.”

Staying safe at other waterfront locations, such as oceans on vacation or lakes close to home, means adults and children need to use proper lifesaving devices at all times and be aware of other factors that could make being in and around the water more dangerous, such as dehydration, exhaustion, heat stroke and muscle cramps, Meeks said.

As a strong swimmer and water enthusiast himself, Hawk urges adults to follow basic water safety rules, especially when they go to area lakes and sometimes let down their guard.

“Even if you’re an adult, at the lake you should always make sure you let someone know where you’re going and go with a buddy,” Hawk said. “No matter where you are, always make sure you wear sunscreen. And don’t drink and then try to go swimming or boating.”

For those who haven’t been swimming the rest of the year, Hawk also advises them to dive in gradually until their muscles get used to swimming again in the summer.