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If everyone knew how to swim, how many drownings could be prevented? 95%? 90%? 80%?
To test whether someone can swim before they graduate from swimming lessons, we must do two things:
The current widespread definition of “I Can Swim” is not working. Currently it means, “I can do freestyle for 25 yards, even if I struggle to do it, can’t get air, and can’t stop in the middle to rest because it’s deep and I panic in water over my head.” Someone who fits that description, yet passes is clearly unsafe.
Many people have passed that test but they would likely panic and drown or be injured in a water emergency.
“I Can Swim” must be defined as, “I am calm and self-reliant for my safety in water over my head.” This need not include formal strokes, as strokes are unnecessary for safety.
To test for that, we need a new swim test. It must prove a person’s understanding of his/her buoyancy and presence of mind in deep water.
The test is:
1. Stand on the bottom of a pool at least 8 feet deep for 10 seconds peacefully. This demonstrates someone who’s in control of his/her buoyancy and understands his/her safety, sinking. She knows sinking can be safe. She’s in control of coming up when she wants.
Not all people can sink at will. Most cannot, but most people don’t know this. It’s imperative that this be part of the test to demonstrate that a person knows her own buoyancy. Either she can’t get to the bottom, or she can drop to it at will. If she can’t sink, she has proven to herself that she can float without effort.
2. Rise to the surface…
Rise to the surface and float or play independently for 10 minutes peacefully, at least 10 feet from any support.
This demonstrates a person’s understanding of how to come up and to maintain comfort at the surface, get air at will, unperturbed by the depth, which should be irrelevant to a person’s ability to remain safe. This demonstration rules out fear of deep water. Someone who’s afraid would not be peaceful for this test, nor would he be able to sustain himself there for 10 minutes detached from the possibility of reaching for a support.
That’s the full test.