7 Steps to a Safer Swimming Season

Learn how to swim, use barriers to make pools and spas less accessible, actively supervise children in water, and never swim alone.

By Sherri Butterfield

According to the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), 106 drowning incidents were reported in Orange County during 2016. Of these incidents, 12 took place in bathtubs, 33 in the ocean or bay, and 61 in swimming pools or spas. Sadly, 38 of these 106 incidents were fatal.

Although many Orange County residents swim year-round, the number of people in local waters increases when school ends and vacationers arrive. Now is the time to prepare yourself, your family, and your pool for a safer swimming season. Drowning is a preventable tragedy.

  1. Prepare yourself. Learn how to swim. Brush up on rescue and lifesaving techniques—including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CRP).
  2. Prepare your pool. Mount a lifesaving ring, a shepherd’s hook, and a CPR sign near your pool. And keep a working phone close by.
  3. Install a barrier. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drowning is the leading cause of accidental injury deaths among children four years old and younger. Of the 106 drowning incidents reported in Orange County last year, 29 involved children in this age group, and 3 of these incidents were fatal.
    To prevent a small child from entering your pool unnoticed, install an unclimbable, isolation fence that is four to five feet high around your pool. Use a self-closing and self-latching gate and position it to open outward, away from the pool. Place the latches well above a child’s reach. And remove patio furniture or other items an enterprising child might use to climb over the fence.
  4. Teach children how to swim. The CDC says that drowning is the second leading cause of death among children ages one through fourteen but that participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the likelihood of a childhood drowning death by 88 percent.
  5. Supervise the pool when it is in use. Do not rely on either swimming lessons or flotation devices to make any child “water safe.” Constant supervision of children around water is critical, and a supervising adult should always remain within arm’s reach of any very young child who is in water.
  6. Never swim alone. Even if you are a very good swimmer, always swim with a companion. Of the 106 drowning incidents reported last year, 38 involved adults thirty-five years of age or older. If you experience a severe muscle cramp, are injured, suffer a seizure, or otherwise become incapacitated while swimming alone, no one can help or save you.
  7. Avoid mixing prescription medications, alcohol, and water. This combination has proved to be deadly on multiple occasions.

The ABCs of Drowning Prevention

Active supervision by a responsible adult, who is not distracted by a cell phone or talking with others, who does not leave any child unattended around water, and who remains within arm’s reach of a small child in water.

Barriers placed around backyard pools and spas to prevent children from entering unnoticed. In addition to a fence and gate, there are door alarms, power safety pool covers, water motion sensors, and other devices that impede a child’s entry into the pool or spa area or sound an alarm if a child enters the water.

Classes in which children, teens, and adults learn how to swim and how to perform CPR.