The possibility of drowning is a reality of life with a swimming pool – whether a community pool or the family pool at home. What are potential drowning dangers, and how do responsible pool users keep them from happening?
1) Swimming alone or unsupervised. Parents.com describes startling stories of toddlers left unattended for only a few minutes who fall into the family pool and drown. The site emphasizes the necessity of having an adult present at all times when a child is in a swimming pool. A child can drown quickly and might not make a big splash or scream if they are in trouble in the water. The adult charged with watching the child should be very vigilant while the child is in the pool. According to the site, 9 out of 10 children who died in the water were in the presence of an adult. Watching children at all times is a mandatory rule for adults supervising pool play.
2) Unable to swim properly. The CDC.gov site states that unintentional drowning is a big problem in the U.S., and one of the biggest risks to children is being improperly trained in swimming. Formal swimming lessons can greatly reduce the risk of drowning. The greatest risk of drowning is for children in the age group 1 to 4 years old, and swimming lessons can reduce that risk by as much as 88%. Constant monitoring, the buddy system and a strong emphasis on swimming safety can also help.
3) Lack of pool barriers. An unfenced pool is an invitation to children who might not be thinking about pool safety. A child can fall in the water and be in trouble very quickly – having a pool without barriers is courting disaster. The C.D.C. site also suggests that pool barriers help prevent young children from gaining access to an unattended pool area. Fences should enclose the entire pool, have self-closing and self-latching gates that open outward, with latches out of the reach of children. Install alarms on pool gates. Poolsafely.gov suggests that if the house is part of the barrier around a pool, homeowners should install door alarms and always use them. Install window guards on windows that are inside the barrier of the pool.
4) Portable Pools. According to the CNN.com health blog site, drowning is the second leading accidental cause of death in children, as reported by the CDC. However, the surprising statistic is the number of incidents reported due to portable pools, including commonly available movable wading pools, inflatables, and soft sided pools. Of the incidents reported, an extremely high percentage were fatal, during the summer months, and at the home of the child. Protective fencing doesn’t always make sense to limit access when dealing with a portable pool. The need for constant supervision is imperative. A toddler can drown in the time it takes to send a text, and no one wants to turn back from the phone to that tragedy.
5) Pool Drains. The SafeKids.org website reports a number of drowning deaths from body entrapment by a pool or spa drain. A number of incidents of hair entanglement were also reported, which could also lead to drowning. The site recommends using approved anti-entrapment drain covers and backup devices. These devices have a vacuum release system – if a blockage is detected, the system will shut off automatically, which could save the life of a child who has put their hand where they shouldn’t. Children should also be cautioned not to investigate pool drain covers.
When dealing with water, drowning is a possibility. Be prepared, be vigilant, and take safety precautions to avoid the major drowning dangers. This will greatly reduce the risk of a tragic accident intruding on family summer fun.
Becky Flanigan is a freelance writer for In The Swim. She has 3 kids with her wonderful husband – two boys and a girl – and two lovely golden retrievers. She spends hours at her family swimming pool, watching the kids and dogs splash and play. She is also a runner, and diligently training for her first half marathon.