Most of the child drowning and near-drowning incidents in Arizona happen because of a parent “losing track” of their child. Having a child is a big responsibility. Having a pool in your backyard is an even bigger responsibility if you have young children. Recently, I have had several distressed parents with two-year-olds call my company urgently wanting swim lessons. Although I encourage and applaud a request for swim lessons, it concerns me when a parent might assume that swim lessons can make a child drown proof. “Will my child be knowledgeable once they have several lessons with you?” asks a parent. More knowledgeable, perhaps, but in all probability they mean drown-proof…and in that case the answer is a resounding “NO”.
We cannot assume that a child who knows how to swim isn’t at risk for drowning. All children need to be supervised in the water, no matter what their swimming skill levels. While infants, toddlers and weak swimmers should have an adult swimmer within arm’s reach to provide “touch supervision”, children who swim regularly and who are stronger in the water still need eye-to-eye contact.
In a news conference held this month to discuss water incidents and drowning in East Valley communities, Gilbert Assistant Fire Chief Vance Gray noted the “ABCs” of drowning prevention, which include Adult supervision, Barriers and enrolling in CPR classes and swimming classes. And when dealing specifically with barriers, many reputable websites assert:
- Pool fences should stand at least 4 feet (130 centimeters) high with no foot or handrails for kids to climb on.
- The slats should be less than 4 inches (110 millimeters) apart so a child can’t get through, or if chain link, should have no opening larger than 1¾ inches (50 millimeters).
- Gates should be self-closing and self-latching, and the latch should be out of kids’ reach.
Although we live in the desert, there are tons of backyard and inflatable pools, lakes and canals, even hot tubs, bathtubs, sinks and buckets of which we must be cautious. A child can drown in as little as TWO inches of water!
In my next article, I’ll touch on some water activities (other than the pool) that children may participate in this summer – and how you can plan for the safest experience.
Az Republic 7/16/10 Article,
Kids Health Water Safety Online Article