Children under 1 year old most often drown in bathtubs, buckets, and toilets.
Children 1 to 4 most often drown in swimming pools, hot tubs, and spas.
Most young children who drowned in pools were last seen in the home, had been out of sight less than five minutes, and were in the care of one or both parents at the time.
– US Center for Disease Control and Prevention
These statistics aren’t intended to scare you, but rather to grab your attention as parents. It is important to remember that your child’s safety around the water is your sole responsibility. Always maintain vigilant attention and do not delegate it to others. It is especially important to maintain strict safety rules during your family vacation.
When around water, practice “touch supervision” by remaining no more than an arms length away from your child at all times. The following are suggested rules to establish with your children for their conduct around water. Discussing them, enforcing them, and outlining a safety plan with your children will go a long way toward ensuring their safety.
- Prevention! Learn to swim. The best thing anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water is to learn to swim—this includes adults and children.
- Never leave a child unobserved around water. Maintain constant supervision and always stay within an arms length. If delegating supervision out of necessity, be sure the supervising adult knows how to swim, how to call for emergency help, and how to perform CPR.
- Teach your child safety rules and make sure they are obeyed. Set specific water safety rules for the whole family based on swimming ability.
- Don’t rely on flotation devices and inflatable toys as substitutes for adult supervision. Such devices could suddenly shift position, lose air, or slip out from underneath, leaving the child in a dangerous situation.
Suggested pool-side rules
- Children who do not know how to swim should hold an adult’s hand at all times when in the pool area.
- Children with swimming ability should never swim alone without a designated adult supervising. Present your children with different scenarios and quiz them on when it would be and would not be okay to go in the water. Discuss their answers thoroughly to be sure the limits are clearly established.
- Parents should train their child with swimming ability to ask permission to go in the pool by establishing contact with the supervising adult, asking the adult if they are ready for them to enter the pool, and counting 1-2-3 together with the supervising adult before entering the pool.
- Never dive into water except when permitted by an adult who knows the depth of the water and has checked for underwater objects. Swimmers should never enter head first in less than 8 feet of water.
- No running on pool deck.
- When jumping in, always jump facing away from the edge.
Residential pool safety
- Enclose the pool completely with a self-locking, self-closing fence with vertical bars. Openings in the fence should be no more than 4 inches wide.
- Keep toys away from the pool when it is not in use. Toys can attract young children into the pool.
- Pool covers should always be completely removed prior to pool use.
- If a child is missing, check the pool first by going to the edge of the pool and scanning the entire pool, bottom, and surface, as well as the surrounding pool area.
- Never swim alone.
- Check the surf conditions before you enter the water. Check to see if a warning flag is up or check with a lifeguard for water conditions, beach conditions, or any potential hazards.
- Keep a lookout for aquatic life. Water plants and animals may be dangerous. Avoid patches of plants and leave animals alone.
- Make sure you always have enough stamina to swim back to shore.
- Don’t try to swim against a current if caught in one. Swim gradually out of the current by swimming across it (parallel to the shore).
- Learn about rip currents and how to get out of them. Rip tide or rip current is water that is moving in a seaward direction. This current is dangerous as it can swiftly carry swimmers and objects into deeper parts of the ocean. Should you become caught in a current:
- Remain Calm–be aware of your body! Physically and emotionally calm yourself down so you can think rationally and act logically. This is your best chance of swiftly solving any water problem and moving you (your child) to safety.
- Signal a lifeguard if you can.
- Swim parallel to the shore. You want to get to the shore, but the current is much stronger than even the most experienced swimmer and it can go for hours. Your best bet is to swim parallel to the shore to get out of the narrow section of this current that is going out to sea. You will feel as soon as you are out of the current and then you can swim to shore.
- No matter how experienced of a swimmer you or your child, always swim by an open lifeguard tower. Should something happen your chances of downing are 18,000,000 to 1 (virtually non-existent) with lifeguard protection. No lifeguard, no swimming!
- The universal sign to signal a lifeguard is raising your arm (s) out of the water and waiving it around.
In and around natural bodies of water
- Know the local weather conditions and forecast before swimming or boating. Strong winds and thunderstorms with lightning strikes are dangerous.
- Use coast guard approved life jackets when boating, regardless of distance to be traveled, size of boat, or swimming ability.
- Know the meaning of and obey warnings represented by colored beach flags.
- Watch for dangerous waves and signs of rip currents (e.g., water that is discolored and choppy, foamy, or filled with debris and moving in a channel away from shore).
By Sarah Fretwell