The grainy cell phone video clip was enhanced with a circular highlight on a small child in a crowded public swimming pool. No one, including the on-duty lifeguard, noticed the child slip off his raft, fall into the water, and disappear. By the time the child was discovered at the bottom of the pool, it was too late to revive him.
Some variation on this nightmare scenario plays out on average ten times a day each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control website. “Fatal drowning remains the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death behind motor vehicle crashes” for children between the ages of 1 and 14.” An astounding, heartbreaking statistic, isn’t it?
People have flocked to beaches and public pools to escape the intense heat of this record-breaking summer. Sadly, accidental drownings have spiked in 2012, too. Let’s pause to remember the main factors that the CDC says affect drowning risk:
- Lack of Swimming Ability: Get swimming lessons for all family members, but especially children
- Lack of Close Supervision: Drowning can happen quickly and quietly anywhere there is water, even with lifeguards nearby
- Lack of Barriers: Childproofed pools reduce a child’s risk of drowning by 83%
- Location: Most children ages 1-4 drown in home swimming pools; the percentage of drownings in natural water settings, including lakes, rivers and oceans, increases with age
- Alcohol Use: Alcohol influences balance, coordination, and judgment, and its effects are heightened by sun exposure and heat; among adolescents and adults, alcohol is involved in up to 70% of water recreation deaths
What can you do to reduce drowning risk while still having fun?
- Supervise when in or around water & use the buddy system
- Learn to swim & learn CPR – Get your kids started on swimming lessons as early as possible
- Air-filled or foam toys are not safety devices – Don’t use them instead of life jackets
- Avoid alcohol, especially when supervising children
- Know the local weather conditions and forecast before swimming or boating
- If you have a swimming pool at home, install four-sided fencing at least four feet high, with self-closing safety latches; clear the deck of toys and floats after use
This is just a short list of reminders. There are many more things you should know when boating or swimming in natural water settings like lakes, rivers, and oceans. Check out the CDC Factlist.
Is safety at the top of your summer fun list?