As you know, summertime is a ripe opportunity for family fun and relaxation. It is fraught with adventure and laughter and can be some of the best memory-making times of our lives. Unfortunately, it can also birth bad memories.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- From 2005-2009, there were an average of 3,533 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the United States — about ten deaths per day. An additional 347 people died each year from drowning in boating-related incidents.
- About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.
- More than 50% of drowning victims treated in emergency departments (EDs) require hospitalization or transfer for further care (compared with a hospitalization rate of about 6% for all unintentional injuries).These nonfatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage that may result in long-term disabilities such as memory problems, learning disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functioning (e.g., permanent vegetative state).
WHO IS MOST AT RISK?
- Males: Nearly 80% of people who die from drowning are male.
- Children: Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates. In 2009, among children 1 to 4 years old who died from an unintentional injury, more than 30% died from drowning.Among children ages 1 to 4, most drownings occur in home swimming pools. Drowning is responsible for more deaths among children ages 1-4 than any other cause except congenital anomalies (birth defects). Among ages 1-14, fatal drowning remains the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death behind motor vehicle crashes.
I went in search of what accredited academia and safety experts thought were the most important steps a parent could take to safeguard their children around the water. During this research, I found a list of those items I, myself, had identified as important water safety posted by the American Academy of Pediatrics:
- Never leave children alone in or near the pool or spa, even for a moment.
- Whenever infants or toddlers are in or around water, an adult – preferably one who knows how to swim and perform CPR – should be within arm’s length, providing “touch supervision.”
- Install a fence at least 4 feet high around all four sides of the pool. The fence should not have openings or protrusions that a young child could use to get over, under, or through.
- Make sure pool gates open out from the pool, and self-close and self-latch at a height children can’t reach. Consider alarms on the gate to alert you when someone opens the gate. Consider surface wave or underwater alarms as an added layer of protection.
- If the house serves as the fourth side of a fence surrounding a pool, install an alarm on the exit door to the yard and the pool. For additional protection, install window guards on windows facing the pool. Drowning victims have also used pet doors to gain access to pools. Keep all of your barriers and alarms in good repair with fresh batteries.
- Keep rescue equipment (a shepherd’s hook – a long pole with a hook on the end — and life preserver) and a portable telephone near the pool. Choose a shepherd’s hook and other rescue equipment made of fiberglass or other materials that do not conduct electricity.
- Avoid inflatable swimming aids such as “floaties.” They are not a substitute for approved life vests and can give children and parents a false sense of security.
- Children ages 1 to 4 may be at a lower risk of drowning if they have had some formal swimming instruction. However, there is no evidence that swimming lessons or water survival skills courses can prevent drowning in babies younger than 1 year of age.
- The decision to enroll a 1- to 4-year-old child in swimming lessons should be made by the parent and based on the child’s developmental readiness, but swim programs should never be seen as “drown proofing” a child of any age.
- Avoid entrapment: Suction from pool and spa drains can trap a swimmer underwater. Do not use a pool or spa if there are broken or missing drain covers. Ask your pool operator if your pool or spa’s drains are compliant with the Pool and Spa Safety Act. If you have a swimming pool or spa, ask your pool service representative to update your drains and other suction fitting with anti-entrapment drain covers and other devices or systems. See PoolSafely.gov for more information on the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act.
- Large, inflatable, above-ground pools have become increasingly popular for backyard use. Children may fall in if they lean against the soft side of an inflatable pool. Although such pools are often exempt from local pool fencing requirements, it is essential that they be surrounded by an appropriate fence just as a permanent pool would be so that children cannot gain unsupervised access.
- If a child is missing, look for him or her in the pool or spa first.
- Share safety instructions with family, friends and neighbors.
OPEN WATER SAFETY:
- Never swim alone. Even good swimmers need buddies!
- A lifeguard (or another adult who knows about water rescue) needs to be watching children whenever they are in or near the water. Younger children should be closely supervised while in or near the water – use “touch supervision,” keeping no more than an arm’s length away.
- Make sure your child knows never to dive into water except when permitted by an adult who knows the depth of the water and who has checked for underwater objects.
- Never let your child swim in canals or any fast moving water.
- Ocean swimming should only be allowed when a lifeguard is on duty.
- Teach children about rip currents/riptides. If you are caught in a rip current/tide, swim parallel to shore until you escape the current, and then swim back to shore.
As you can see, there are some steps you, as a parent can take to make swimming a safe summertime activity for your child. Remember, keep an eye on your child. Drownings can happen in the blink of an eye.That is why the “touch supervision” as reference above is so important.The worst that can happen if you are watching and advising them of the potential danger is that you will be shaping the course of their lives.
In the end, you are the greatest guardian of your safety and that of your children. Safe swimming and best wishes from your team at Harris County Constable’s Office Precinct 2.