While drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children 1 to 4 and a leading cause for children under 15, there are things you can do to add layers of protection to your home to prevent a drowning.
Here’s what you need to know about drowning, as there are many misconceptions:
- Drowning is silent. It is not like the movies, where you often see splashing and screaming.
- It can happen in an instant. One minute your child is by your side, and the next moment, they are under water. Nine out of ten drowning deaths happen when a caregiver is supervising but not paying attention. And 77 percent of those involved in a home drowning accident had been missing for no more than five minutes when found in the swimming pool.
- Drowning happens when you least expect it. Seventy percent of drowning victims weren’t expected to be in or near the pool at that time.
- Drowning does not discriminate. A drowning can happen to anyone, no matter your socioeconomic status or swimming ability.
The good news is, there are steps parents can take to better safeguard their families and their homes from drowning:
- Pools should have complete four-sided isolation fencing with a self-locking gate. Fencing could prevent 50 – 90 percent of child-related drowning events. And don’t leave any toys in the pool area as it can attract the attention of a wandering, curious child.
- Install door locks high on doors to the outside that could have access to any body of water. A door alarm could give you an extra warning if a child tries to sneak outside.
- Pool alarms are available that can notify you if a child falls in the pool or if someone gains access to your pool when you are not around. There are many options available, so consider why you need an alarm, what type of pool you will be using it in, and the type of alarm to meet your needs. Types include wall/fence-mounted alarms, personal immersion detectors, and pool-mounted alarms. Features to consider include sensitivity, range, volume, and other technology conveniences, such as a remote or app.
- For infants and toddlers, consider installing toilet locks on all your toilets. A child can drown in less than 2 inches of water. This also means you should drain inflatable or kiddy pools when not in use.
- Keep simple but effective lifeguard equipment poolside such as life rings, telescoping poles, shepherd’s crooks, or lines with buoys. Some are as inexpensive as $10 and can prevent a rescuer from getting pulled under creating a double drowning.
- Blow rafts, rings, water wings, and floats are not safety devices. They have no safety requirements and can fail. In fact, they can lead parents to have a false sense of security, which can actually increase drowning risk.
It’s also important to note that formal swim lessons between the ages of one and four have been shown to reduce the risk of drowning by 88 percent. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all children learn to swim, and they can start as early as one year of age. This is a layer of protection that will be with the child no matter where they go. Undistracted adult supervision when kids are around or near water is another critical layer of protection. Assign an adult to be a “water watcher” when children are in and around water. At all times, the water watcher should be within arm’s length of non-swimmers.
There is a lot swimming has to offer each of us. With a little knowledge and planning, you and your family can appreciate a lifetime enjoyment of swimming and water activities while keeping your home safer.