What You Should Know to Prevent Drowning

by Melanie at

What You Should Know to Prevent Drowning

As I write this post, I’m sitting here dreaming of the weekend that’s almost here – chasing after my boys in our backyard, hitting the beach with them, and jumping into the bay to cool off after some serious sand castle construction. Indeed, there‘s much to love about summer. But sadly there’s also a lot of potential hazards associated with the season, and a major one on a lot of our minds these days is drowning.

Recently, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the launch of a new pool and spa safety effort called Pool Safely, with partners the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA) and Safe Kids USA. Pool Safely includes a video series about pool safety and an online activity for kids ages 7 and under and their parents that helps families learn about a variety of pool safety scenarios (coming soon to all three partners’ websites). This new campaign is designed to combat some truly alarming statistics; in a 2009 report, the CPSC stated that in recent years there were, on average, close to 300 pool- and spa-related deaths for kids under the age of 5, in addition to 3,100 pool- and spa-related emergency department-treated submersion injuries. And the NDPA says that drowning is the second-leading cause of death of children ages 1 to 4 in the U.S.

It’s hard to miss the heartbreaking reports of child drownings, like this one via The Stir, where identical twin toddler girls drowned in a pool after, it’s hypothesized, one of the girls pressed a button to retract the pool cover that was in place. And as vigilant as most of us may think that we are – installing pool fences and gates, giving our kids swimming lessons at an early age, watching them while they’re in the water – it’s still possible for a child to go under, sometimes without a parent even understanding what’s happening. Check out this smart piece from Coast Guard Marine Safety Specialist Mario Vittone called “Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning,” where he addresses commonly-held misconceptions about drowning. (Did you know that instead of thrashing about and waving for help, a drowning person is most often silent and can be submerged in 20-60 seconds?) His residential pool safety checklist is also worth a read (or several).

Finally, do yourself and your kids a favor and check out these simple steps from the CPSC’s Pool Safely campaign:

What to Do:

  • Never leave a child unattended in a pool or spa and always watch your child when they are in or near a pool or spa
  • Teach children basic water safety tips
  • Avoid entrapment by keeping children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings
  • Have a phone close by at all times when you or your family are using a pool or spa 
  • If a child is missing, look for them in the pool or spa first
  • Share safety instructions with family, friends and neighbors

What to Know:

  • Learn how to swim 
  • Learn to perform CPR on children and adults; update those skills regularly
  • Understand the basics of life-saving so that you can assist in a pool emergency 

What to Have on Hand:

  • Install a four-foot fence around the perimeter of the pool and spa and use self-closing and self-latching gates. Ask your neighbors and community groups to do the same at all residential pools.
  • If your house serves as the fourth side of a fence around a pool, install a pool alarm and use all the time
  • Ensure any pool and spa you use has compliant drain covers; ask if you do not know 
  • Maintain pool and spa covers in good working order 
  • Have life saving equipment such as life rings or floats available for easy use