Should Milford Beaches Allow 'Swimmies'?

Milford Recreation explains the policy prohibiting "swimmies" and other floatation devices.


On Sunday morning, Rob Whelan posed a question on the Milford Patch Facebook page:

Question: why do they not allow any type of "floaties" including swimmies at Milford beaches? Thanks!

Whelan added that his daughter had to take her swimmies off in Sunday. "The lifeguard walked over and asked," wrote.

In an email,  Recreation Supervisor Bill Garfield explained the policy:

The prohibition on children’s floaties and inflatables is designed to enhance the safety of swimmers by ensuring the lifeguards have clear sight lines, by reducing the opportunities for swimmers to get into distress, and to encourage parents to provided better supervision of their child in the water.

Children’s “swimmies” can help children experience freedom in the water (under the direct supervision of a parent or instructor) and help non-swimmers overcome the fear of the water. However, when used at the beach they provided a false sense of security to both the child and the parent.  This can led to over-confidence, where the swimmer ventures out into deeper water and gets into trouble.   Lifeguards can become distracted by children using “swimmies” and end up focusing on those with floatation aids and not on the entire population in the water.

Rafts and other inflatables have been known to develop leaks leaving non-swimmers in distress; children can easily fall off rafts, tubes, etc., as a result waves or winds leaving them in jeopardy; users of these items can also drift in deep water or tire while trying to retrieve the item from deep water.  Most importantly these items obstruct the lifeguard’s view of the water and as mentioned earlier cause them to focus on these swimmers and not on the entire population in the water.

What do you think? Should the lifeguards have clear sight lines of all those swimming at the beach? or should floaties and floatation devices be allowed?

Dan Zeek July 24, 2012 at 02:17 PM
I was a lifeguard and the waterfront supervisor for many years under the Milford Recreatiin Department. Swimmies and other flotation devices allow swimmers to float into situations where they will be in distress and in water "over thier head so to speak". Swimmies are also not very secure and can slip off. This is obviously a hazard. Guards should be spread out over the shore line. This covers a larger area and they are trained to use signals to alert of dangers.
Ryan Sartor (Editor) July 24, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Stephanie Janucik: "Definitely!!" Lori G. Chaisson: "YES!!" Maria Crocco: "Absolutely...." Michelle Beaulieu: "Floaties, or what you're calling swimmies, are the inflatable bands you secure on your child's upper arm when they're in the water. They give the child a false sense of security. I worked as a lifeguard for five years - don't use them. And especially not in an ocean/sound environment, where wave action can push the floatie down your child's arm(s) where they then come off. Then what? Take a mom's and tot's swim class to get your kid acclimated with the water, and get them swim lessons." Matthew Collen: "Then you grab them so they don't go under. You should be watching your kid in the water, especially if they can't swim." - Comments left on the Milford Patch Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/MilfordCTPatch
CuriousOrange July 24, 2012 at 02:41 PM
To be clear: Life jackets, YES. Unsecured flotation devices, NO.
RONALD M GOLDWYN July 24, 2012 at 03:25 PM
CT law requires a child to be wearing a USCG approved PFD (Personal Flotation Device) BEFORE they leave land and step into a boat. I as a boatowner had to keep these devices in the trunk of my car. But "Floaties" are inflatable objects which if punctured or the air plug comes loose then these objects are useless for personal flotation. My kids used a styrofoam bubble strapped around their waist. My daughter passed her deepwater swimming test at age 2, the youngest in my communities history, but on my boat she wore the PFD. When I moved to CT, everyone invited on my boat, when on deck wore an inflatable CO2 USCG appvd PFD supplied by myself. My wife and I wore automatic inflatable harness vests.for use both day and night. Finally, Flioaties are for learning how to swim and NOT for use as a safety device.
D Fitzpatrick July 24, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Joyce I wonder the same thing everytime we are at Walnut. All the lifeguards pile into that one stand to the right of the pier. If you are over on the left side of the pier there is rarely anyone there watching over. If they are worried about swimmies not allowing a clear line of sight, then they shouldn't all be on one side because I can't imagine that pier allows for a clear line of sight to the swimmers on the other side.
RONALD M GOLDWYN July 24, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Mr Fitzpatrick, You are absolutely correct, but all swimmers and guardians should also take precautions to be seen by lifeguards and if they can't, then don't swim there. You have an obligation to protect yourself.
CW July 24, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Thank you Joyce. I have seen the same problem at Gulf Beach. all the guards congregating in one spot, either on top of the shed or in beach chairs in front of it. The other guardchair(s) remain empty inspite of the fact that often most of the beachgoers are at that end of the beach, closer to the snack bar and restrooms. Also I have frequently noticed that they do not seem to be paying attention to swimmers or people on the beach. Last week my sister was at the beach and due to her medical problems was unable to get out of her chair, had the guards been observant they would have noticed her having trouble and I hope would have helped. Instead she called me at home and I went and helped her while 3 or 4 guards sat on top of the shed. The Department needs to establish some basic rules that will protect our beachgoers.
Taylor Samuels July 24, 2012 at 10:14 PM
to all that are talking about the spread out situation, first of all, the article was not about that! And secondly, if the lifeguards do not have full staff and no one is at that end of the beach in the water, why should they be there if they would just be watching people sun bathe? Please answer that!
Theresa July 24, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Large ocean beaches from SC. to ME. allow floaties and other flotation devices, boogie boards and more. I never understood and still don't why Walnut Beach and other CT beaches do not allow them. I do not find the explanation above good enough. Lifeguards need to do their jobs. Parents, friends, and family need to do their job watching their children, friends and family at the beach. What happened to a buddy system ?
MikeS July 25, 2012 at 02:08 AM
What difference does it make whether the article was about flotation device policies or lifeguard conduct. It is a fair point and deserves consideration IMO. I don't know what exactly constitutes "full staff" at Walnut Beach, but when I see 4 lifeguards all bunched together talking, I'm inclined to think they could better patrol the beach if they were spread out and not sitting next to one another chatting. This is just common sense and is pretty much how things are situated at every beach I've ever been to.
Ryan Sartor (Editor) July 25, 2012 at 02:17 AM
Michelle Beaulieu: "My bigger problem is the lifeguards that sit on their chairs/stands with their heads down - either texting on their phone, or talking to all the kids gathered at the base of the guard chair/stand. Two years ago I made complaints to the city about this issue - got a lot of lip service. Last year it was still going on, so I stopped going to Gulf Beach, or any of the Milford beaches. Why? Because once a lifeguard, always a lifeguard. When I saw the lifeguards not paying attention? I did. I know it's a tough job, but if they don't do their jobs, lives can be lost." - Comment left on the Milford Patch Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/MilfordCTPatch
Lisa D July 25, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Just because someone is sunbathing doesn't mean they won't get up and go in the water at some point. There should still be a lifeguard posted at that spot of the beach.
Joshua July 25, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Hello, guard here. People need to understand that with the whole spreading out situation, some days there is less staff than others. Some lifeguards have other jobs, go on vacation or something may just come up, leaving the rest short staffed and having to work with what they have. Also, they need to incorporate breaks into the days; sitting out in the sun for 6 hours a day doing nothing but ensuring the safety of patrons and watching that water gets them tired and hungry. So when they rotate for breaks that also leaves them with a little less people. And no lifeguards can't not take breaks, it is essential, i'd like to see anyone else sit in the sun everyday for 6 hours without a break for food or anything. Lastly, floaties are a terrible terrible thing. They give the children a false sense of safety, what if those floaties around your kids arms popped? Well they thought that simply holding their arms out would keep them afloat so when the floaties do pop, they won't know how to use their arms because they've become too dependent on the floaties, plus the popped floatie will eventually weigh the child down because it is stuck on them. In addition, THERESA, any floatie that is NOT inflatable is allowed, i.e. boogie boards. Lastly, CHARLOTTE WESTON I understand where you are coming from however it is a lifeguards main priority to be watching the water, there were probably people in the water while your sister had trouble sitting in her chair.
CW July 25, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Joshua Charlotte here My sister did not have trouble sitting in her chair, she was having trouble getting up. As it turns out she was ill and too weak to get up. Bottom line: life guards need to be observant and guard lives on the the whole beach.
Rick July 25, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Puddle Jumpers! U.S. Coast Guard approved type 5. My kids know that they can't go in the water without them until they learn to swim.
Andrew July 25, 2012 at 09:31 PM
I am also a lifeguard in Milford and id like to start off by saying on the issue of the lifeguards all staying in one place. At gulf beach the main stand is tall enough and put in the right spot on the beach where you can see EVERYTHING from there. When there is no one on the beach because people are at work or kids are at camps there is no need for us to spread out, the view point from the stand is perfectly fine. As for what Josh said about the inflatables, it gives the kids a false sense of security about swimming. Take your kids to swim lessons offered by the city and they wont need to rely on the them, and then you could be proud and happy for your kids not needing to use the useless "floaties." We are responsible for all the beach goers but how are we supposed to know if someone is just sitting in there chair sunbathing like everyone else, they could have asked someone close to them to alert us because our main focus is on the water just like Josh had said earlier. Lastly, if you have problems with us on the beach you can honestly just come up and ask us questions about rules and how we doing things on the beach. So before you go and insult all of us on how we do our jobs please get the facts straight.
CW July 25, 2012 at 10:33 PM
I have only a couple of things left to say, I apologize for not mentioning inflatables I do not believe they are safe and fully support the ban on Milford beaches. And regarding the life guards I will stand by my statements and continue to feel that there need to be policies in effect (and maybe they should be posted publically) as to what their jobs entail. If there are policies let the public know what they are and enforce them.
Chris Jameson July 26, 2012 at 11:10 PM
We do have policies and we stand by them as lifeguards. Maybe you should go through lifeguard training and find out what zoning procedures are! Learn before you speak. Just because there are stands there do not mean you have to be there at all times.
CW July 26, 2012 at 11:46 PM
To all the life guards who have responded to my points, this is the last response I will gvie to this topic, I totally respect what you do and am familiar with many of the situations you face. I was a Registered Nurse, I have had just about every emergency training course and certification that was available at the time. I am educated in emergency response probably more than you are at this point in your young lives, I was an emergency department nurse. I just hope that when you are my age and in some moderate distress, that you are able to get the help you need when you need it and don't need to call someone at home to come help you when there is someone trained to do so 100 ft or so away. You don't know what it is like to be in the shoes of someone who is in distress and unable to get help quickly. I feel quite insulted by some of your responses and will not respond to any more. I am however quite pleased to see young people speak out about they feel.
jungis4545 July 27, 2012 at 10:35 AM
Did your sister ask anyone for help before she called you? If she was ill and that weak, what was she doing at the beach, especially unaccompanied? If she had gotten up (with or without help), was she going to drive herself home? A little self-reliance, please.
kajolica July 27, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Dear charlotte, I'm sorry your sister has a hard time getting it up. She should refer herself to a doctor or health care physician where they will recommend over the counter extenz.
Lynn Viesti Berube July 27, 2012 at 07:02 PM
kajolica - your comment is not funny at all, it is offensive.
CW July 28, 2012 at 01:39 AM
I have found most of the last few comments very insulting, that is why I will not answer anymore.
Cheryl Craig Smith July 28, 2012 at 02:24 AM
Are you a life guard at Walnut Beach? The life guards should be doing their jobs, they should be sitting in their chairs, observing the water, watching for trouble. They should NOT be sitting together and talking as if they are at the beach instead of working. We do not need a tragedy to happen!
Cheryl Craig Smith July 28, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Bottom line...parents watch you kids, life guards..do your job.
RONALD M GOLDWYN July 28, 2012 at 06:13 AM
PARENTS, Lifeguards are on duty to assist you in guarding your children and NOT to replace you. Don't ever, not even for a second give up your responsibility of watching all your children.. You will NEVER forgive yourself if a tragedy occurred and you were not on duty. As for Floaties and their like, they are to be used only under your direct supervision unless you can be assured that your child would be safe if they were deflated. These are an accident awaiting to happen unless an adult is DIRECTLY watching. The summer before I learned to swim, I almost drowned in a pool surounded by 8 - 12 guards. They could not distinguish between a kid going down for the second time and a kid just playing in a pool full playful kids. I was lucky a swimmer accidentally pushed me to the pools edge and I hand over hand pulled myself along the gutter until I reached a ladder. All this occurred while a guard was within 6' of me with a 10 foot bamboo pole in his hand. I was about 8 years old at the time. My son learned to swim at age 5 while his younger sister passed her deep water swimming test at age 2. For me it was a priority that they learned to swim.
Lisa D July 30, 2012 at 01:10 PM
I think people are missing the point and have gone off in all different directions here. The original issue was should floaties be allowed at the beach. I think the poll response speaks for itself. I don't ever recall reading in here that parents who thought the floaties be allowed would then just sit back in their chairs and expect the lifeguards to have the sole responsibility of watching their children. As a parent, I wouldn't mind having the floaties be allowed, but you can be absolutely certain that I would be with my child watching them like a hawk as I am well aware that all it takes are mere seconds for something to happen and a drowning occur. Just as Stew Leonard Jr. if you do not agree. His son lost his life in a drowning accident when he wasn't being watched for 30 seconds. That's all it takes. By the same token, people are concerned with the lifeguards congregating in one area and the appearance it MAY give that they are perhaps unable to see the whole beach from there. People need to remember, PERCEPTION IS REALITY. Does not make it fair, but that is the truth of the matter. No one was insulting the lifeguards who are diligently doing their jobs at all. They were just raising a question/concern. I think the discussions on this board has showed good points on both sides of the isle.
RONALD M GOLDWYN July 30, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Lisa, Using the current poll's numbers, this community is divided down the middle in regard to the use of Floaties. The beach rules at the present state NO FLOATIES. So it is those parents who would like their children to wear Floaties who want the rules changed. It is these parents who are willing to put the lives of their children at risk, and if the rules are ever changed that will allow the use on public beaches, I strongly suggest that the parents or guardians be made to sign a notarized statement holding the city harmless should a child drown while at a city beach while aware of the dangers. I guess we can lead a horse to water, but we can't make them drink. My taxes should not rise because of these stupid parents. Let these kids swim in private backyard pools, where the sole responsibility will be the parents.
Lisa D July 30, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Spoken as a true attorney. Again, do not personally know any parents that would allow their young children to go unattended into the water simply because they are wearing floaties Moot point as the City will not change their position and nor was this something that was being pushed. It was simply a poll put on the Milford Patch that sparked a healthy, and unfortnately somewhat personally nasty, debate.
RONALD M GOLDWYN July 30, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Lisa, I truly hope that parents who put Floatie's on their children do so as added protection. But with so many non-inflatable swimming aids available, it is hoped that these postings will have educated Patch readers to the potential danger and why in the wisdom of our authorities they were banned in the first place. But half the folk taking the poll say Floaties pose no danger. We make laws and rule to protect the stupid. Such as seat belts, helmets, cell phone texting and Floaties. As previously mentioned, on my former boat ALL guests aboard had to wear a USCG approved PFD. I provided every adult with an inflatable type (my wife and I wore inflatable harness vests) If darkness came then I supplied everyone with a harness and safety leash so that all were attached to the boat while aboard. This was strictly enforced even if they were US Navy SEALS. On my boat I was responsibile for their lives as well as a happy time aboard.


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