On May 28, Memorial Day weekend, the Amarillo pools opened for business. Along with the summer fun, however, comes the danger of drowning, heat exhaustion, as well as other summer ailments, so it's important to have precautions in place.
The Thompson Park, Southeast, and Southwest pools have all opened for the summer season and will be open through the first of August, weather permitting. Some rules to follow when attending these facilities are to use mesh or clear bags only; to have no outside food or drinks, but empty water bottles are allowed; and to have a daily pass, which is required to enter. In addition, no smoking or vaping is permitted, and inappropriate clothing or behaviors will not be tolerated.
Children under the age of 12 are required to have an adult present with them at all times. This is for the safety of the children who are not strong swimmers. The city's facilities provide personal flotation devices (PFD) free of charge for the pool goers, if it's needed for a weak swimmer or simply for an extra form of protection.
"Parents don't realize that their kids are not strong swimmers until they get into some of our bigger pools, and so having PFD's available at our parks is one of the best things," said Kristen Wolbach, Assistant Director for Parks and Recreation.
The Warford Activity Center provides swimming lessons indoors year-round for the weaker swimmers and for the ones who want to improve their swimming skills further.
"That's the cool thing about the swimming lessons; there, they can tailor it to any age and any swimmer's needs," Wolbach said.
The Amarillo Parks and Recreation has continued its partnership with the Harrington Cancer Foundation to provide sunscreen free of charge to these facilities. The sunscreen is located in dispensers in the facilities.
"People think the only danger is drowning, but one of the big things is heat exhaustion from sun exposure and lack of staying hydrated," Wolbach said.
In order to prevent dehydration and to help with heat exhaustion, the pools provide water fountains to refill those empty bottles guests are allowed to bring. These fountains are available to use for free.
"Stay hydrated and make sure you drink a lot of fluids before you go outside, because during the summer around here, it can reach into the triple digits, and you can go down quickly. Wearing a hat or loose fitting clothing is also helpful in avoiding the negative effects of the heat," said Jeff Justus, community liaison and public information officer for the Amarillo Fire Department.
This year, the pools faced some staffing challenges, but they were able to stay open.
"We are making sure that we are providing a safe facility and we have enough guards on hand to be able to provide a safe, but fun atmosphere while also making sure we aren't overworking our staff," Wolbach said.
Recruitment starts around the new year, with city representatives going around to the schools in search of the city's next lifeguards. Parks and Recreation pays their staff to get certified and pays for their uniforms. Certification is a two-day process at the Warford Activity Center. The lifeguards receive their life guard certification, CPR and AED certifications, and first aid training. These certifications last two years.
"The main thing is reminding parents that water safety starts with them," Wolbach said.
For more information on facility specific hours and admission fees as well as day time pool party information, visit:
For more information on swimming lessons at the Warford Activity center visit:
Red Cross water safety tips
The American Red Cross is stressing the importance of constant, active adult supervision, along with ensuring that everyone learns to swim, as critical layers of protection to help prevent drowning, according to a news release. The following tips will help people stay safe in, on and around the water:
- Ensure that everyone in the family learns to swim well.
- Adults: actively supervise children; stay within arm’s reach of young children and newer swimmers. And kids: follow the rules.
- Enclose your pool and spa with four-sided, four-foot fencing and use self-closing, self-latching gates.
- Don’t just pack it; wear your U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket – always when on a boat and if in a situation beyond your skill level. Inflatable children’s toys and water wings can be fun, but they are no substitute for a life jacket and adult supervision.
- Everyone, including experienced swimmers, should swim with a buddy in areas protected by lifeguards.
- Know what to do to help someone in trouble, without endangering yourself; know how and when to call 9-1-1; and know CPR.
According to a Red Cross survey, more than half of all Americans (54 percent) either can’t swim or don’t have all of the basic swimming skills. These critical skills include being able to:
-Step or jump into the water over your head;
-Return to the surface and float or tread water for one minute;
- Rotate in a full circle and find an exit;
- Swim 25 yards to the exit; and
- Exit from the water. If in a pool, be able to exit without using the ladder.
In addition, the Red Cross Swim App promotes water safety education and helps parents and caregivers of young people learning how to swim. The app has features specifically designed for children, including a variety of kid-friendly games, videos and quizzes. People can download the app for free by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in their app store or at http://3cu.be/shareswim. The Red Cross and National Swimming Pool Foundation have also developed an online safety course for pool and hot tub owners at HomePoolEssentials.org .
This article originally appeared on Amarillo Globe-News: Amarillo officials offer water safety tips to keep kids healthy