Florida has the nation’s highest death rate for drowning by children under age 5, and more than 70 percent of drownings happen in home pools. With summer upon us and everyone headed for the pool, the CDC and the Florida Department of Health say adults must take important steps to keep children safe. Remember, it only takes a minute – the time you take to run inside for a towel or turn to answer your phone – for a child to drown.
* Have a designated “water watcher.” Everyone’s gathered around the pool. Adults are focused on eating, drinking and conversation, and everyone assumes someone else is watching the kids in the pool. Don’t assume. Designate a water watcher, who is dedicated to keeping swimmers safe.
* Learn to swim. Formal swimming lessons reduce the risk of drowning for children under 5 by as much as 88 percent. But even if your kids know how to swim, supervision is key. And always have children swim with a buddy – no matter their age.
* Know CPR. With training, you might be able to save someone’s life by the time paramedics – or a lifeguard at the beach – arrive. Even adults who are not parents should learn CPR. And be sure you have a phone at the pool so you can immediately call 911.
* Pools need barriers. Florida law requires that pools built after October 1, 2000 have one of these barriers.
1. A pool fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate. The fence must enclose the pool and provide no direct access to it.
2. An approved pool cover. Be sure it’s professionally designed to fit your pool. Children can get past simple canvas coverings and their loose fit can trap a child in the water 3. Alarms on all doors and windows leading to the pool.
4. A self-closing, self-latching device on all doors that provide direct access from the home to the pool. The release mechanism cannot be lower than 54 inches from the floor, to prevent small children from reaching it.
* Don’t forget about life jackets. Children swimming in natural bodies of water, like lakes and the ocean, need life jackets, even if they know how to swim. Be sure the jackets are U.S. Coast Guard approved. Foam and air-filled toys like inner tubes and noodles aren’t designed to protect swimmers. With residential pools, life jackets can also assist weaker swimmers.
Swimming is a fun and healthy physical activity for all ages. But please use caution to enjoy safe water fun.