Attendees of Tom Griffiths' morning seminar, "The New Standard of Care in Aquatics: It Ain't What It Used to Be," received a yellow rubber wristband embossed with the phrase "Note & Float." Had these same individuals been of a younger age and about to enter a swimming pool under Griffiths' watch, they would have received the bands only by failing to prove themselves worthy of the pool's deep end. The bands are used by facility operators to identify non-swimmers and are worn in concert with a flotation jacket. It's an idea that Griffiths borrowed from the YMCA and piloted with thousands of kids this summer at Penn State University. "It went much better than we anticipated," says Griffiths, who likens life jackets for non-swimmers to car seats for children. "We're doing it because we believe supervision is just not cutting it."
The pre-screening process involves having kids swim 25 yards, and only requires extra staff when large groups (a sports camp, for example) converge on the pool at once. Many non-swimmers will screen themselves. "Most of the kids are going to opt out and say, 'I can't swim,' " Griffths says. "So you give them a life jacket and a wrist band." A typical pool can be outfitted with bands and jackets for less than $5,000 - a great sponsorship opportunity for local businesses. According to Griffiths, president of Aquatic Safety Research Group and a perennial ABC presenter, drownings often occur with the child face down between unaware parents and lifeguard staff. "If they had a life jacket, it wouldn't have happened," he says. "I truly believe this can become the standard of care in the industry."