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Kids learn lake safety tips before summer ‘trauma season’ begins

POSTED: May 10, 2013 12:29 a.m.

The Gainesville Fire Department's Dale Yarck shows students a search-and-rescue dog named Rango while visiting Gainesville Exploration Academy on Thursday morning during a Safe Kids Gainesville/Hall County safety fair.

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Four children sat in a boat on their school’s gym floor Thursday as Department of Natural Resources officers shook it and a crowd of their classmates loudly counted down.

The kids tried to buckle life jackets, practicing water safety at one of five safety stations set up at Gainesville Exploration Academy. After 15 seconds, most had their life jacket part of the way on, and Sgt. Mike Burgamy with the Department of Natural Resources pointed out what might happen in a real-life situation on the lake.

“Don’t worry about what somebody else says or thinks. If you cannot swim, there is no shame in wearing a life jacket,” Burgamy told the kids. “You hear me? There’s no shame in that. I wear one every day, and I wear it proud.”

He noted that in his many years of working Lake Lanier, he’s never come across a drowning victim wearing a life jacket. He also emphasized the new law that any child 13 and younger must wear a life jacket when boating.

David Diaz, a second-grader, said the water station was his favorite so far, and that he learned he needed to always bring a friend to the pool.

Zacoria Johnson also liked learning about water safety.

“We learned about how to swim and stuff and how to be a lifesaver,” she said, talking about throwing a rope or items that float, like pool noodles, to a person in need.

But water safety was just part of the education disguised as fun. Children also raced to load batteries in smoke detectors, got to see a fire truck up close and played a bean bag toss game to learn about sports safety. They learned about road safety and how to make 911 calls, too.

Gainesville Fire Chief Jerome Yarbrough taught a group of students about wearing helmets and other safety gear when bicycling, skateboarding or participating in other sports activities.

“Your brain is like Jell-O. ... So if you fall, hit your head, run into something, you can injure your brain,” he told the kids. Sporting accidents are one of the leading causes of injuries for children, he said.

Kim Martin, coordinator for Safe Kids, said summer is sometimes called trauma season.

“(There’s) just a lot more people out doing busy family fun things,” she said. “So we’re trying to emphasize and help them make better choices this summer as far as keeping them safe.”

Safe Kids, a coalition of agencies including the Northeast Georgia Medical Center and a number of law enforcement and fire service agencies, puts on the daylong event in a Gainesville and Hall County school every year, Martin said. Safe Kids will be at Tadmore Elementary School today.

“The kids really love it,” Martin said. “They love the competitiveness of the fire safety and sports safety programs, and the school has been phenomenal here as far as helping us coordinate this event.”


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