PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Despite what you may have seen on TV or in the movies, drowning deaths often happen suddenly and silently. That was one of the facts a group of parents learned Friday during a free water safety course at the American Red Cross in Pascagoula.
The water safety class follows a series of drowning deaths in South Mississippi this summer.
"The biggest thing to know about water safety is you don't have to be a strong, proficient swimmer to help someone in a drowning situation," said instructor Joshua Rowland, as he kicked off the training class.
Next year marks 100 years that the American Red Cross has been teaching water safety.
"Any kind of drowning is a tragedy, an especially preventable tragedy. So that's why we're here today," he told the group of parents and grand parents.
Supervising children around the water is emphasized. And it's not just at the beach or pool.
"A lot of parents bring their children to water parks, drop them off and make the life guard the baby sitter. Life guards are not baby sitters. They're there to respond to an emergency. It's the responsibility of the parents to watch their children," said Michael Eder, the aquatics program manager for the Red Cross.
Parents from Arkansas kept a close eye on their kids around the water at the beach in Ocean Springs on Friday.
"They love it. That's all they've talked about is going to the beach since we got here," said Sam Maddox.
Sam and Michelle Maddox also have a pool at home. That's why all their kids will learn to swim.
"Just in case something happens and they fall in. They can protect themselves," said Michelle.
"The little ones that don't know how to swim, they'll wear life jackets when they get into deep water," her husband added.
Proper use of life jackets and safety gear is critical.
"They might just throw the whole thing without holding the actual end of the rope," said Michael Eder, as he demonstrated the proper use of a life saving ring, "They might just throw it out there and now they're on, but how will you get them back in?"
Hopefully these parents and grandparents will be better prepared the next time kids are enjoying the water.
"Really hammer home the idea, swim with a buddy. Never swim alone. Read the posted signs. Follow the rules and directions given by the lifeguard. The rules are there for a reason," said Eder.
"Always, always, always have someone designated to watch children in the water," said Rowland.
The American Red Cross has offered water safety instruction and swimming lessons for many years. Eighty percent of the life guards in this country received their training from that organization.