My daughter started asking in March when our local pool would be open. Like most kids, she’s ready to jump in the water as soon as she gets a chance. But parents need to help keep their kids safe, even if they are already Missy-Franklins-in-the-making. What better time than May (Water Safety Month and the beginning of swimming season) to review water safety tips? Whether you are at the pool, lake, or in the tub, don’t let your kids jump in without reviewing these important guidelines.
Public Pool Safety
For many families in Colorado, summertime means long lazy days at the pool. Don’t let yourself get too distracted by other people at the pool, a book, or your phone. Remember to:
- Keep young kids within arm’s reach.
- Do not let children play around drains and suction fittings.
- Be aware of games and activities that involve extended breath-holding.
Open Water Precautions
If you’re headed out to Colorado’s lakes, rivers, and streams, remember that “open bodies of water present the additional dangers of currents, undertows, and other hazards hidden under the surface,” says Dwayne Smith of Safe Kids Colorado. “Parents and caregivers should stay within arm’s reach of children in the open water.” To stay safe, remember to:
- Watch for unexpected changes in weather.
- Be aware of fast-moving currents and rapids, even in shallow water.
- Watch for drop-offs and changes in water depth.
- Be careful of potential hazards such as dams, underwater rocks, or debris (some underwater vegetation can entangle feet).
- Be aware of activities going on around you, such as boating.
- Do not dive in unless it’s a designated diving area (at least 9 feet deep with no underwater obstacles).
- Swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards.
- Use the buddy system.
- Always wear a life jacket when boating.
Home Pool and Spa Safety
Home pools and spas are a wonderful convenience, but they are also high-risk for kids. “Most children who drown in swimming pools were last seen in the home, had been missing from sight for less than five minutes, and were in the care of one or both parents at the time of the drowning,” says Smith. “Parents and caregivers must be educated about the risks of drowning and the short amount of time it can take to lose a child.” Remember to:
- Fence pools and spas with adequate barriers including four-sided fencing.
- Install and use a lockable safety cover on your spa.
- Ensure any pool and spa you use has compliant drain covers. Ask your pool service provider if you don’t know.
- Post CPR instructions and learn the procedures.
- Make sure all caregivers in the home are briefed on water safety and the need for constant supervision.
Many people assume they will hear a loud commotion as a warning that there’s trouble in the water, but a drowning in progress is often silent. A person struggling in the water may only be able to remain at the surface for 20 to 60 seconds, if at all.
“Drowning doesn’t usually look like what you see in the movies or on television. A drowning victim who is struggling to remain at the surface of the water cannot call out for help because their efforts are focused on getting a breath,” says Smith. To help increase survival for a drowning person:
- Recognize the signs of someone in trouble, and shout for help.
- If the person is close enough, use a reaching assist, such as a pole, towel, tree branch, shirt, or paddle to extend your reach and give the victim something to grab onto. Remember “Reach, throw, don’t go.”
- Call 911 for emergency medical services.
- Begin rescue breathing and CPR.
- Use an automated external defibrillator (AED), available in many public places.
Other Water Warnings
Children can drown in a variety of other locations, including large buckets, aqueducts, drainage canals, ditches, bathtubs, and even toilets. Keep a close eye on children whenever they are near any water.
“While swimming can be a fun recreational activity, it is important to keep safety in mind,” says Gretchen Burdekin, aquatics program specialist at the American Red Cross. “Many people who are involved in aquatic emergencies never intended to swim in the first place.”
Chera Prideaux is a freelance writer who lives in Castle Rock.