By Sherri Butterfield
WRITER AND EDITOR
Make it your mission to prevent drowning by limiting unauthorized pool access, teaching children to swim, and watching the water!
Drowning is suffocation by submersion. It can occur in as little as twenty seconds and will occur within three minutes. Drowning rates are highest among children ages one through five. Children can drown in as little as two inches of standing water, but most drownings of young children occur in home swimming pools. In fact, the USA Swimming Foundation reports that nearly ninety children under the age of fifteen drowned in a pool or spa from January through May last year. Tragically, nearly half of all drowning incidents are fatal.
According to the Orange County Fire Authority, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death among children under the age of five, and the second leading cause of death in children under the age of fourteen. But adults fifty years old and older account for more than half of the drownings each year. The most common reason children drown is a lapse in active adult supervision. Adults drown because they swim alone, and no one is around to help them if they are injured, suffer a seizure, or otherwise become incapacitated while in water.
Drowning is a preventable tragedy. Take steps now to prepare yourself, your family, and your pool for a safer swimming season.
- Prepare yourself. Learn to swim. Brush up on rescue and lifesaving techniques—including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
- 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 to summon help quickly in an emergency.
- Install at least two safety devices. For example, to prevent a small child from entering your pool unnoticed, install an unclimbable, fve-foot fence between your residence and the pool. Install a self-closing and self-latching device with a release mechanism at least 54 inches above the floor on the door of your home that leads directly to the pool. And place in your pool a motion-sensing alarm that will sound in the event of accidental or unauthorized entry.
- Teach children to swim. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the likelihood of a childhood drowning death by 88 percent.
- Supervise the pool when it is in use. Do not rely on either swimming lessons or flotation devices to make any child “water safe.” Constantly supervise youngsters when they are near water and remain within arm’s reach of any very young child who is in water. When swim time is over, be diligent about ensuring that no child reenters the water unnoticed, unaccompanied, or unsupervised.
- Designate a Water Watcher. During pool parties, ask responsible adults to take turns supervising the pool or spa area and make the assignment official by giving the designee a Water Watcher tag to wear.
- Never swim alone. Even if you are a very good swimmer, always swim with a companion who can provide help if you need it.
- Avoid mixing prescription medications, alcohol, and water. In far too many instances, this combination has proven to be fatal.
For More Information
To learn more about drowning prevention, water safety, and where to purchase barriers, sensors, and other water-safety devices, visit one or more of the following websites:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Jasper Ray Foundation
Orange County Drowning Prevention Task Force
Orange County Fire Authority
USA Swimming Foundation