Water safety depends on swimming, lifesaving skills

May 15 is International Water Safety Day

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross Volunteer

Those of us who live in northern Ohio are never very far from water: Lake Erie, swimming pools, ponds, reservoirs and rivers. Even water parks, hot tubs and spas.

All that water offers lots of opportunities for fun, but it also poses a very real – sometimes tragic – hazard.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 4,000 people die of drowning every year in the United States. To put a finer point on it, drowning is the #1 cause of accidental death of children age 1 to 4.

The Bennett family of University Heights came harrowingly close to those statistics earlier this year. While on vacation, their four-year-old found her way into a backyard pool and was discovered unconscious at the bottom.

Fortunately, her 15-year-old sister, Ayala, had completed an American Red Cross lifeguarding, first aid and CPR course just two weeks earlier. She was able to perform CPR until medical help arrived and the little girl recovered.

Ayala Bennett, flanked by her father Josh and mother Raizel

For her lifesaving action, Ayala received the Red Cross Certificate of Merit, the highest award given by the Red Cross to people who save or sustain a life using skills learned in a Red Cross course. The Red Cross also recognized Shira Goldsmith of Goldsmith Swim School, who taught Ayala’s lifesaving class. “It made me feel so good, that she was able to save her sister,” Shira said. “It made me think, this is why I do what I do.”

Shira was just a teenager herself when she realized there weren’t enough lifeguards to safely supervise children in backyard pools in her neighborhood, so she got trained. “I did my first rescue at 15,” she recalled. She’ll never forget the rush of adrenaline and the overwhelming relief of success.

Shira Goldsmith, Goldsmith Swim School

Passionate about water safety, Shira teaches swimming as well as lifeguarding, first aid and CPR as a high school elective. She also has many students with special needs, African Americans and members of her Jewish faith.

“Even if you don’t know how to swim, learn CPR,” she emphasized. “You never know.”

The Red Cross certifies trainers like Shira as part of its mission to prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.

As we mark International Water Safety Day, the Red Cross offers these reminders:
 Learn to swim competently and be sure your children do too! Go to RedCross.org/TakeAClass
 Swim as a pair near a lifeguard’s chair. Never swim alone.
 Reach or throw, don’t go. Don’t enter the water to rescue someone unless you’re trained.
 Look before you leap. Be sure it’s a safe place and time to swim.
 Follow the rules. Listen to the lifeguards.
 Don’t just pack it. Wear that life jacket.
 Think so you don’t sink. Floating or treading water can help you make good decisions.
 Don’t fool with a pool or spa: Fence it with self-latching gates.
 Download the American Red Cross Swim app for more tips and tools for water safety for the whole family.

The American Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or CruzRojaAmericana.org, or follow us on Twitter at @RedCross.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Posted by Ryan Lang, Red Cross board member and volunteer

Employee’s lifesaving action inspires Red Cross training

CPR being taught to workers nationwide

Jamell Fetter had not yet received First Aid/CPR/AED training from the American Red Cross through his employer, Estes Express Lines. But the Toledo man had already used CPR to save a co-worker’s life.

Jamell Fetter received a certificate and pin from Rachel Hepner, executive director of the Red Cross of Western Lake Erie

“I sat in on classes with my sisters and my friends who had to do all their certifications online,” he said. “I never had any formal training. Just watching the videos.”

Jamell said he was at a company lunch event in September, 2020 when he saw coworker Mark Benschoter on the floor, lifeless.

“I wasn’t thinking about it until afterwards, and I just knew he needed help, and I was there.”

Mark is back on the job, working every day with Jamell. “He is my personal security guard,” Mark said. “Every time we have a function, people will not let him go home until I do. He has to stay until I leave.”

After learning of Jamell’s lifesaving actions, company officials asked the Red Cross to provide First Aid/CPR/AED training to all managers, supervisors and directors at its facilities across the country.

“It’s a great project,” said Tom Zahler, director of corporate training and development for Estes Express Lines, based in Richmond, Virginia. “We’re really grateful we’re partnering with the Red Cross.”

Tom visited Toledo on the day Jamell was presented with the certificate of extraordinary personal action at the headquarters of the Red Cross of Western Lake Erie in Toledo. The award is presented to individuals for selfless and humane action using lifesaving skills.

“We’re training supervisors and above to be sure that someone on every shift, every day is available, should another event like this happen.”

Although Jamell isn’t at the supervisor level, he is being included in the training being provided by Estes Express Lines.

Mark Benschoter, Jamell Fetter and Tom Zahler of Estes Express Lines

“It’s working,” Tom said. “We hear stories all the time about people who are there when something happens.”

Information about First Aid/CPR/AED training is available at redcross.org /take-a-class.

Hear Jamell, Mark and Tom tell the story on our podcast, Be A Hero.

Posted by Ryan Lang, Red Cross board member and volunteer