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City pool closure raises safety concerns

Posted at 10:49 PM, Jun 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-14 11:35:29-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — With Omaha city pools closed for the summer, some may head to nearby lakes and rivers instead, which is causing concern for water safety experts.

"That means more backyard pools, more time at the lake [and] less lifeguards," Swim Instructor Jason Anderson said. "Life guards aren't at these locations so pool safety is going to fall on the people swimming and the adult supervising their children."

Anderson tells 3 News Now that's why it's important people don't swim alone.

"Always have a buddy," he said."You always have a set of eyes on you, you always have a set of eyes on them, you're always in contact with one another [and] you never want to be in the water alone."

Anderson also says lake visibility can be difficult, causing additional safety hazards.

"You don't know what's in the water, could be a lot of hazards under water, hazards on the beaches," Anderson said. "But once again take a step back and point out the hazards to your kids or your other family members ... know your surroundings, know what you're getting into."

A message echoed by Sarpy County Officials, who have been searching for a missing 8-year-old girl on the Platte River.

"We understand that a lot of people want to take part in all of the great outdoor activities that Sarpy County has to offer (including our rivers), but we do want to make sure that everybody is doing it safely and doing it responsibly," Sarpy County Communications Manager Megan Stubenhofer-Barrett said.

She also tells 3 News Now life jackets are essential.

"The number one thing is if you are on the river, wear a life jacket, make sure that it is a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket for your height and weight," Stubenhofer-Barrett said

Anderson says it's also important to keep in mind that water accessories can't take the place of a life jacket.

"Don't rely on things such as noodles or toys that give you a false sense of security," he said. "They'll help you float but remember it's a toy, the minute you let go of it, it'll reposition the child or reposition the adult and it'll put you in a position that you're not comfortable in, you could end up under the water."

He tells us it's never too late to learn how to swim.

Others recommend that adults who have been drinking avoid the water as well.