Important Water Safety Tips for the Upcoming Holiday Weekend
Water Safety for the Whole Family this Labor Day Weekend
By Mimi Conner
With Labor Day coming up this weekend, several will be drawn to water whether it is a cool dip to cool off or just to sit around a pool, lake or river and enjoy the day. Water safety is an important consideration, especially when children are involved. This summer the Consumer Product Safety Commission has reported that nearly 100 children under the age of 15 have drowned in swimming pools. This does not count the number of adults and children in other bodies of water, lakes, rivers and oceans. Children under the age of 5 had the highest percentage and required 911 calls for near-drowning incidents.
To keep your family safe around water, follow these simple water-safety guidelines:
Swimming pools and spas
The first place to look when a child goes missing is anywhere where there might be water — swimming pools and spas — check the neighbors’ backyard too. Having multiple layers of protection can help ensure water safety and prevent drowning in a home pool or spa. If you have a pool or hot tub, follow all local safety ordinances.
Also consider these general water-safety tips:
- Fence it in. Surround your pool with a fence that’s at least 4 feet tall. Make sure kids can’t squeeze through and avoid chain-link fences which can be easy for kids to climb. Be sure to install self-closing latches and gates. You might also consider installing a second fence around the pool.
- Install alarms on doors leading to the pool area or underwater pool alarms that sound when something hits the water. Make sure you can hear the alarm inside the house.
- Block pool, spa and hot tub access when they are not in use with rigid covers; don’t allow water to collect on top of the cover.
- Empty inflatable pools after each use.
- Remove ladders or steps to above ground pools when not in use.
- Children should know how to swim. Most children can learn to swim between the ages of 3- 5, but know that swimming lessons won’t necessarily prevent a child from drowning.
- All children need to be taught the rules before getting into the pool: Never ever swim alone, don’t go near the water or in the water without permission, never allow swimming when an adult is not available — never on a babysitter’s watch. Post signs around the pool; make a sign that your child will see and understand (laminate and post it where they see it before getting to the pool entrance). Know the rules, teach the rules and follow the rules.
- Remove toys. Don’t leave pool toys in the water. A child may fall into the water while trying to retrieve a toy. Anything floating in the water is an invitation drawing children towards the water — an accident waiting to happen. An empty pool is a safer pool. Ask the children to help put all toys and equipment away.
- Keep your eyes on your children. Be the Water Watcher.
- Never leave children unsupervised near a pool, spa or hot tub. During social gatherings, adults who know how to swim can take turns being the “Designated Watcher.” Don’t rely on air-filled or foam toys, such as water wings, noodles or inner tubes, to keep children safe. This becomes a false sense of security. Practice the Water Watcher Program: a designated Water Watcher takes 15-20 minute shifts of being at the water watching the swimmers. This adult must know how to swim, be alcohol free, never leave the area without a replacement, should know CPR and be watchful. Get a Water Watcher Tag here.
- Beware of drains. Don’t allow children to play near or sit on pool or hot tub drains. Body parts and hair may become entrapped by the strong suction. Use drain covers, and consider installing multiple drains to reduce the suction.
- Keep emergency equipment handy. Store a safety ring with a rope and/or a long pole beside the pool.
- “Reach or Throw, Don’t Go.” Tell the struggling swimmer to grab on and pull to safety. Do not go into the water unless a swimmer is submerged to the bottom or cannot grasp the safety equipment. Make sure you always have a phone in the pool area with a safety card that shows 911 emergency numbers in BOLD and the physical address.
Natural bodies of water
Swimming conditions can be unpredictable in lakes, rivers and oceans. Water depth can change rapidly, as can water temperature, currents and the weather. Murky water may conceal hazards.
Follow these water-safety tips:
- Don’t swim alone. Never allow children to swim alone or without adult supervision. Use the Water Watcher Method.
- Wear a life jacket-Coast Guard Approved and bright-colored. Children must wear personal flotation devices whenever riding in a boat or fishing. An air-filled swimming aid isn’t a substitute for a life jacket. All non-swimmers and those that are not comfortable in the water shouldhave a life jacket on. There should be enough life jackets on the boat for everybody on the boat.
- All kids should wear an approved personal flotation device (PFD) when riding watercraft. When in a boat, kids should wear an approved life jacket. (Having life jackets in the bottom of the boat won’t keep your kid afloat if he falls in!) It’s also a good idea to have small children wear life jackets when fishing or spending time at the edge of a lake, river or ocean.
- Put the Life Jacket on before you get in the boat or go on the dock.
- Feet first. The first descent into any body of water should be a jump — feet first. Before the jump, check water depth and temperature and look for underwater hazards. “Look Before You Leap-Know Before You Go.” Determine if the area is safe to swim in.
- Stay in designated swimming areas. At public beaches, swim only in areas set aside for swimming. Don’t allow children to swim in drainage ditches or other water-filled areas not intended for swimming.
Toilets, Bathtubs and Buckets
The water in common household items can be dangerous for young children. A baby can drown in just 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) of water. A curious toddler can fall into a toilet, bucket or fish tank.
Taking these precautions can help:
- Keep the bathroom door closed.
- Install a safety latch or doorknob cover on the outside of the door.
- Supervise bath time. Never leave a child alone in the bathtub or in the care of another child. Drain water from the tub immediately after use.
- Shut toilet lids. Install childproof locks on toilet lids.
- Store buckets safely. Empty buckets and other containers immediately after use. Don’t leave them outside, where they may accumulate water.
Even when diligent about water safety, accidents are still possible. Prepare for an emergency by learning cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Knowing what to do, how to do it and when to do it saves lives.
Nearly 100 children under 15 have drowned in swimming pools this summer, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The agency tracks drowning between Memorial Day and Labor Day as part of the Pool Safely: Simple Steps Save Lives campaign. Statistics indicate that 72 percent of the reported drownings were children younger than 5 years old, and according to media reports, an additional 106 children of that age required emergency response for near-drowning incidents. On a state level, Texas had the highest number of drownings (13). California, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania each reported five drownings.
Sources: Mayo Clinic, Consumer Product Safety Commission, American Red Cross
Miss Mimi Conner founded, developed, managed and trained staff for Medical Center of Plano Aquatics Program. After the program’s closure 10 years later, she opened Aqua~Fit Swim and Wellness Center in January 2008. She felt there was a need in the Plano community for a comprehensive swim and wellness center for age types, with an emphasis on the family modality. Miss Mimi has over 21+ years of swimming, aquatics and instructor experience to her credit. She has a reputation of providing caring, compassionate and stellar skills in reaching and touching students lives with positive reinforcement. Parents often comment that since their children have been taking classes with Miss Mimi, they have witnessed their children “come out of their shell.”