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A little knowledge can save a life

Diventures in North Liberty urges safety in and around the water this summer

NORTH LIBERTY– As the COVID-19 crisis continues, people are finding fewer than normal recreational opportunities, including taking a dip in a municipal swimming pool. The outdoor pool at the North Liberty Recreation Center is closed for the season while the indoor pool is open for lap swimming by reservation only. Cedar Rapids pools are also closed for the season in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus while the Coralville pools opened on Monday, June 29, with modifications including pool capacity and waiting lists, new hours and Coralville resident-only early admission, reservations for summer camps and day care groups, and extra precautions due to the virus.
People will likely flock to their lakes and rivers for a swim as county and state parks have reopened, however lifeguards are typically not on duty at these venues. Two recent deaths highlight the potential dangers of ponds and lakes.
According to scanner radio traffic and KCRG-TV, a fisherman drowned in a quarry pond along Old River Road near the US Hwy. 30 and Iowa Hwy. 13 junction in far southern Cedar Rapids on Sunday, June 28. The Solon and Jefferson-Monroe Twp. (Swisher) fire departments were initially called to respond with boats but were disregarded as boats were also en route from the Linn County Sheriff’s Office and Cedar Rapids and Mount Vernon Fire Departments.
And, on Sunday, June 7, Makeda Scott, age 21 of Iowa City drowned in Lake Macbride. Scott disappeared around 5:30 p.m. triggering a search by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, and the Solon and North Liberty fire departments, which was called off as darkness fell. Scott’s body was recovered the next day.
Another option may be to put up an above ground backyard swimming pool, which may, depending on the municipality, require a permit and ancillary items such as decking, fencing, and/or a cover.
Regardless of where people choose to swim, knowing basic safety rules, and knowing how to swim are key to avoiding a preventable tragedy. Due to the ongoing pandemic, many municipal recreation departments are curtailing programming, including swimming lessons. In the corridor however, a local business stands ready to educate people to enjoy the water, with safety at the forefront.
Gabe Dorrell, aquatics manager for Diventures in North Liberty said the company wants to make sure people are safe, technical swimmers.
Swimming itself is fairly instinctive, he said, but relying on instinct alone is a recipe for disaster. “Right from birth kids are very comfortable in the water, and it’s actually a lack of time in the water that instills fear,” he said. “So if we can keep them there, perfect. But we also want to put safety into action. So things like backyard pools, we want parents to understand that even if they feel like their kids are good swimmers, there should still be somebody there watching them. Even adults should have somebody there with them so they’re safe if something were to happen.”
Dorrell pointed out even Olympic swimmers have lifeguards present at all times, “So we shouldn’t be overly confident in our own backyards, or the lake,” he said. “The water can be really, really fun, but it can also be really, really dangerous if you’re not careful.”
Swimming can be a life-long activity, Dorrell said, adding “It’s never too early (to start). I believe the recommendation is age one, but there’s advantages to going even earlier than that just because it’s kind-of instinctive for babies. If we can help kids not be afraid of the water, but in parallel, teach them the safety skills, then we’ve gone a long way in terms of the foundational piece for them to be successful.”
Dorrell said it is important to respect the water, “But we don’t want to be scared of the water. That’s a huge mindset for our younger ones.”
Diventures starts swimming lessons as young as 5 months old. “Just very basic comfort in the water, starting to get them underwater a little bit, the foundational pieces of, when I go under, I blow out. When I lay on my back, I can relax.” Again, safety is the key ingredient. “We don’t want that 18-month-old who learned to walk to just walk up to the edge of the pool and jump in. We want them to know to respect this and have somebody else there who knows they are jumping (through various non-verbal communications), and is going to protect them.”
Diventures offers swimming classes from 5 months old through adults at its facility located at 1895 W. Penn St. in North Liberty.
“We just want people to be safe around the water,” Dorrell said. Many adults either took swim lessons as kids, or never had the opportunity, but now they’re thinking about the safety aspects, he said. “I want to be able to go to the lake, I want to be able to kayak, I want to be able to do these things that are in or around the water, but I want to make sure that if something were to happen, I know what to do.”
The ability to stay calm in an emergency situation, he said, greatly reduces the chances of something happening, through minimizing the risks and knowing how to respond.
One way to minimize risks is the use of appropriately-sized Coast Guard-approved floatation vests, especially around lakes, but they can also provide something of a false sense of security.
“Don’t think just because they have a life jacket on, that you don’t need to watch them,” Dorrell said, “Because that’s when things happen, too.” He added, “They (floatation devices) have their place because they offer some independence as well. We also want to teach people to be confident and safe without them.” Some activities, such kayaking or boating, absolutely require the devices regardless of age.
Diventures has its own 60-foot indoor heated pool, which is maintained at 88-90 degrees. Younger kids taking swimming lessons do so with a parent or other close family member in the water with them. “It allows our teachers to keep their distance, and it’s the parent or family member who is in physical contact with the swimmer.” Diventures has made other adaptions as well, he said, “But we’re still able to teach those skills and those technical pieces of swimming, just in a different way.” The Diventures facility has a one-way foot traffic flow established. “We’re mindful of people crossing paths, and we want to make sure we minimize that as much as possible.”
For more information on swim classes and other programming at Diventures, call 319-665-2741, email northliberty@diventures.com or go online to https://www.diventures.com/locations/north-liberty/ for details and the latest information.
“We’re still able to teach and we want people to be able to enjoy summer as much as they can even if it’s different this year,” Dorrell said, “And it’s all about teaching that safety.”

Five easy tips to keep safe at the pool or lake this summer:
· For new swimmers, spend a little time poolside watching others before getting into the water.
· Stay close, be alert, and never leave a child unattended near water.
· Assign a designated watcher to monitor children during social gatherings at or near pools.
· Make sure to always swim with a buddy.
· Teach children water safety and swimming skills as early as possible.