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June 9, 1998

PREPARED FOR THE POOL BOY SHOWS HOW SURVIVAL CLASSES CAN BE A LIFESAVER Published on Tuesday, June 9, 1998 1998 The Arizona Republic

Byline: By Ginger Scott, The Arizona Republic

Susan Churchill said she could hardly believe her eyes when her 3-year-old son, William, climbed out of the family's backyard pool after taking a dangerous turn on his tricycle.

Churchill was sitting on the patio with her daughter and said she only turned her head for a second when she heard the splash from the toddler's fall

"By the time I walked from the patio to the pool he had pulled himself out," the Mesa mother said. "I couldn't believe it, and I asked him to show me what he did again."

She said her son then climbed down the pool's steps and using the skills he learned from his water survival class quickly pulled himself to safety.

"He was just doing what they do in class," she said. "When you get in, you get right back out."

The water survival classes are offered by Mesa at the Parkway Recreation Center. They are designed to teach non-swimmers how to save themselves when they fall into water, swim instructor Zane Arters said. The class was developed five years ago and is the introductory level of the recreation center's swimming lessons.

Participants are taught to use certain techniques to either alert others that they're in trouble or make their way back to the side of the pool.

"The idea is to save yourself or at least hold yourself until someone can help you," Arters said.

He said techniques taught include rolling from the stomach to the back or reaching and pulling with the arms to get some movement through the water.

"But the most important (technique) is screaming," Arters said, adding that making someone aware of a drowning can be the difference between a 15-second and a five-minute response time.

Churchill said participating in the class has had a huge impact on her son.

"He (William) used to be terrified of the water," she said. "The class has given him a lot of confidence."

However, she said even with the survival skills, it's still important for parents to watch their children around water.

"Children drown even when people are watching," Churchill said. "It just takes a couple of seconds."

According to Arters, water survival techniques aren't just for children. In fact, Parkway students range from a minimum age of 2 to 65.

Classes cost approximately $20 for a four-week session and are held year-round. The center also offers survival courses for people with disabilities. The cost for these classes ranges from about $20 to $40 for a four-week session.

"Hopefully, these classes can prevent or at least reduce the number of fatalities and/or injuries in the water," Arters said. "If I can prevent one child from (being hurt), that makes all the difference. I think that's why I do what I do."

Information: Parkway Recreation Center, 644-2864

Reproduced with permission from:
The Arizona Republic
©Copyright 1999 Arizona Republic

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