Teen Travel Network

Water Safety Policy

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Water Safety Policy

The purpose of TTN’s water safety policy is to keep students and staff safe from the highly unpredictable nature of water in general and open water specifically. According to the World Health Organization, drowning is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths. Staff and students shall strictly adhere to this TTN water safety policy.

For any program that has a recurring water element or one that involves free swimming of any kind, staff will run a swim test during the first few days (or when location permits) of the program to assess an individual student’s ability in the water and approve participation in the water based activities. All programs with a water element that requires a swim test must include an orientation on water safety as it pertains to the program (see instructions for staff and students) .

Students should be confident with the use of at least three basic hand signals while in the water ( 1- All clear/okay, 2- Assistance required, 3- distress signal).

Students should also be familiar with the “S.A.F.E” protocol for entering bodies of water

  1. Spot the dangers
  2. Advice from adults / qualified professionals
  3. Friends – always swim with a buddy
  4. Emergency- how to respond

A swim test consists of the following (All staff must be present):

(a) Have swimmers demonstrate their swim stroke across the shallow end (depth where they can stand) of a calm body of water. If successful, move to the deeper end portion of the test.

(b) Have the student swim 30 yards unassisted and without rest. Swimmer must maintain a positive body position (legs should not drop past 45 degree angle) for the entire distance.

  • There should be an emergency flotation device (a rescue ring, tube, buoy, can, or tube) for students to use if they would like or need. For water intensive programs your team will be provided a Rescue Can by TTN.
  • If a student requires an emergency floatation device to complete this portion of the test, they will automatically be considered ‘non swimmers’ for TTN purposes. Non-swimmers will not be allowed to free swim at any point on the program & will require assistance from a floatation device (such as a life jacket) at all times throughout the water based activity. The ability to partake in the water activity deeper than waist high, will be based on the condition that the student successfully completes the tread test (see next bullet) and this will be up to the discretion of staff (ideally the lifeguard certified if there is one).
  • Students who are self declared non-swimmers and swimmers who are declared non-swimmers by failing the swim test will be required to sign the Water Safety Waiver in order to participate in water activities deeper than waist high.

(c) For the tread water test, students can perform this in the shallow end as long as they do not stand/grab onto an edge at any stage of the test. Have the student tread water for one minute, turn on their back, float for 10 seconds, then swim (either on front or back) to the side and exit the body of water.

(d) Inform students that the “float” position can be used to conserve energy if under distress.

(e) If a student cannot regain a vertical position from either a back or front floating position they are considered a non-swimmer.

Special notes for the swim test:

  • If a student uses a flotation device for any part of the swimming test, they must wear/use it at all times going forward. Students will be allowed to request to do a personal swim test later when they feel more comfortable in the water.
  • If a student fails any part of the swim test then they may not participate in water activities deeper than waist high, in addition they may not participate in river water activities (rafting/tubing).
  • TTN Lifeguard-certified staff members have final say if students are suitable to participate in water activities.
  • Once the swim test is complete, all staff should have a strong understanding of individual swimming abilities and move forward adhering to the following guidelines as applicable:

Staffing ratios for water activities in the SEA, RIVERS, OR LAKES:

There will always be a minimum of two staff present. (Program Managers will advise field staff if ratios for their program or a particular location are higher). One staff member must be in the water with students while another staff member is on shore watching students swim and monitoring water conditions. If the program requires it, one of the staff members must be the lifeguard-certified staff. The lifeguard-certified staff are expected to be present for the entire duration of the water activity and should preferably take shore duty with the rescue can. It is advisable to split the group up into land/water activities for smaller student ratios.

Staffing ratios for water activities in SWIMMING POOLS:

There will always be at least one staff present (i.e. students are not allowed to swim in a pool unsupervised, and this should be explained clearly during Orientation). It is up to the staff to be in the water with the students or outside watching them.

Guidelines and considerations for ALL water activities

Flotation devices: If students have passed the swim test, they are not required to wear a flotation device. However, staff may specify otherwise due to water conditions or other circumstances. Students who didn’t pass the swim test may be allowed to swim at staff’s discretion, but they must be wearing a flotation device. Staff may also allow them to wade water up to knee level without a flotation device and watch them closely. The provided rescue can is to be used in case of emergencies and should remain on land with the staff. It is not to be used by students as a flotation device or to play with.

No Diving. At no time are students permitted to dive (i.e. jump head first) into a body of water – no matter the depth because of hidden dangers we are unable to assess. If staff determines it is safe for students to jump feet first at a particular location (e.g. from a rock into a river), staff must first assess the safety of the jumping space, then demonstrate the correct way of doing so and must watch students closely as they do it. No jump higher than 10ft (3m) should ever be allowed.

Boundaries. Staff should set clear boundaries for students on where they’re allowed to swim, how deep, etc. Staff should utilize physical objects or points of reference outside of the water area  to set a swimming area boundary. Staff should use the provided whistle to remind students of such boundaries.

Check local beach/weather forecasts for weather forecasts, rip currents, strong waves and wildlife warnings [e.g. jellyfish, sharks, etc.] before you head to the beach/water activity area. Talk with Local Staff to best understand the area (especially on more remote programs).  

Take all necessary equipment, qualified persons and clothing with you as identified by the site/certified instructor. Quick checklist:

  1. If applicable, do you have a certified lifeguard with you?
  2. Do you have a flotation device?
  3. Whistle?
  4. An emergency cellphone?
  5. Water shoes (closed shoes or sandals with straps if approaching sharp/slippery rocks)?
  6. Dry clothes?

Perform a head count and put a buddy system in place. No student will ever be allowed to swim alone. A buddy system is enforced at all times with strong swimmers preferably paired with less experienced swimmers. (ie. 2 less experienced swimmers shouldn’t be buddies). Perform headcount pre-, during and post activity to ensure all students are accounted for and are returning to Home Base.

Always listen to the expert on hand and always swim near lifeguards if they’re available. Always abide by any flags, rules or advice as presented by safety experts on the day (lifeguards, instructors etc.)

Bacterial & Parasitic Waterborne Diseases Protocol

Any body of water could reasonably carry a waterborne bacteria. It is the Field Specialist/Program Manager’s duty to research water safety on activities prior to students’ arrival in the country. It is the duty of the Field Staff hired by TTN to properly orient the students prior to entering any body of water and ensure the following is maintained:

  1. No students/staff may enter a body of water if parasitic water bodies are suspected or known. This includes but is not limited to bodies of water that may have known outbreaks of; schistosomiasis, Giardia, Leptospirosis etc. 
  2. If water is deemed safe from waterborne bacteria according to the authorities running the activity, no students may enter the water if they have any wounds or open sores. It is important to forewarn students about this during orientation on Day 1 of the program so they understand that they must practice care in mosquito repellant (and avoid scratching open bites) and situationally appropriate clothing (as defined by staff) to safely participate in the full experience.
  3. Keep water out of your mouth. For all water-based activities, especially activities involving elephant-specific activities (such as washing elephants) and some waterfalls, remind students to be cautious of not allowing water to enter their mouth or their ears if they can.
  4. Shower after. All students will shower after the water experience with soap to ensure cleanliness is maintained. Make sure to remind students to scrub with soap to fully cleanse themselves of the river/lake water. Students should change into clean, fresh clothes after the experience.
  5. Students are given the opportunity to opt out of the water experience if they choose to do so. A staff member will remain with them or remain within 20 yards should they opt out.

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