Two seconds. That’s how long it takes for a child to drown. One Mississippi, two Mississippi and your life could be changed forever. Even if you don’t have a swimming pool, chances are you and your child(ren) will visit someone who does or you’ll join friends and family for an outing on a lake, river or at the ocean this summer.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking it won’t happen to you. Whether you’re a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, it’s important to realize it can happen, especially in Texas.
- Texas led the nation in 2012 in the number of pool and spa drowning incidents among children ages birth to 14.
- Drowning is the second leading cause of death among children 14 and younger.
- Among the ages of 1 – 4, drowning is the leading cause of injury deaths.
- Harris and Tarrant counties led all Texas counties in the number of drowning among children younger than 15.
Drowning prevention has two components that work together to keep your kids safe:
- Water survival skills for a child
- Safety precautions to prevent access to water
When my children were young, they took swimming lessons usually around the age of three. If I were to do that over again, I would enroll them in water survival lessons starting at around the age of six months and then follow that up with swimming lessons. Teaching a child how to survive in water is different than teaching a child how to swim. Water survival lessons are about teaching a child to survive in water until help arrives.
- Children 6 to 12 months are taught how to get to the surface roll over onto their back and float.
- Children 1 to 6 years old are taught how to swim until they need air, roll over onto their back to breathe, then to resume swimming. This sequence is repeated until the child reaches the pools’ steps or side or they reach shore.
Lessons of this nature are available through many resources such as:
- Infant Swim Resources http://www.infantswim.com/. There are dozens of ISR instructors in north Texas.
- Your local YMCA (search Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. for the nearest location to you).
Lessons help a child once they fall into the water, but there are a number of safeguards you can take to ensure your child or children are safe whether they are in the water or not. There are two areas to examine:
- Supervision during water and non-water activities.
- Establishing layers of protection
According to the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, http://ndpa.org/home/ many children drown even when parents and adults are present. Some simple guidelines NDPA advises parents follow whether it’s a designated pool time or not are:
- Always know where your children are.
- Never leave a child unattended, especially during pool time.
- Survey the area for water hazards such as pools, spas, buckets or coolers filled with water, etc.
- If a child is missing, check the pool or spa first.
- Establish a designated water watcher when kids are swimming. This person’s role is to watch the children in or near water exclusively without reading a book, conversing with other adults or some other activity.
- Rotate designated water watchers every 15 minutes so there is a “fresh” pair of eyes to watch the children.
- Do not rely on life vests, water wings or even a life guard to supervise your children.
Establishing layers of protection can also save a child’s life. Layers of protection include:
- Perimeter fencing around the back yard to restrict access from kids in the neighborhood. Fencing should be 6 feet tall and not easily scalable (have the finished sides face outward so the horizontal rails don’t act as ladder steps).
- All gates need to be padlocked.
- Install an interior fence around the pool, either permanent or temporary fencing that is at least 5 feet tall, not easily scalable and has self-latching and self-closing gates.
- Inspect the fence and gates monthly to ensure they are in proper working order; they close on their own and latch securely.
- If the fencing is wrought iron, the bars should be 4 inches or closer together so a child can not squeeze through.
- Remove all items a child could use to assist them in climbing over the pool fence such as chairs, tables, playground equipment, storage boxes, etc.
- All doors that provide access to the pool area should also be self-closing and self-latching.
- Evaluate alarms for doors, windows, and the pool gate. There are also surface and subsurface alarms available along with alarms that a child can wear.
Many kids aren’t exposed to bodies of water such as lakes, rivers and oceans until they are older. A common mistake is to think that these bodies of water are no different than the backyard pool. Educate your children on how these bodies of water are different from a pool:
- There are strong tides, currents, submerged trees and rocks that may not be visible from the surface.
- Never dive into water until it’s been scouted for a safe depth and submerged hazards.
- Have children and adults wear life vests while on or in the water.
- Have a designated water watcher at all times.
- Always swim with a buddy.
Enjoy the water this summer and in summers to come by taking the right precautions and having your kids properly trained. This combination training and precaution can be a lifesaver!
Do you have a suggestion, comment or experience you’d like to share? You can share them in the comments section of our blog or on our Facebook page. I’d love to hear from you!