Pool Safety – Tips to Prevent Accidental Drowning

 May 20th is National Learn to Swim Day

Drowning accounts for an estimated 360,000 annual deaths worldwide. According to the CDC, drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury death among children aged 1–4 years and the second leading cause of unintentional injury death among children 5–9 years. More than 60% of fatal drownings of 0–4-year-olds occur in swimming pools.

This subject matter, when discussed, inevitably finds many who have a drowning or near drowning experience or know someone who has. Including myself.

When my daughter was two she fell into the deep end of our pool, while myself, her father, aunt and older brother were all in the house. I share my story, to bring awareness to a preventable tragedy.

What I know…

Our pool gate was not closed properly. None of us can explain why we didn’t check it, but we didn’t.

I was in the kitchen; my husband, son, and sister-in-law were in the backyard. My daughter wandered outside, and I heard my husband tell her to go back inside but I didn’t see any of them come inside.

I finished what I was doing, went to the living room where my sister-in-law had just sat down with my son and out of the corner of my eye, I saw my husband react. As he came out of our office, I saw him throw papers in the air and sprint outside. Before the papers hit the ground, I knew that our daughter was in the pool. I ran to the backyard but he was already in the water, pulling her up. She was conscious. Spitting up water, she started to cry, clinging to me for 20 minutes before she’d even let me take her wet diaper off. Her eyes were as big as saucers.

My husband said he didn’t hear anything, not a splash, not a cry. None of us heard anything. What he saw, what caught his attention, was our dog. Our dog was looking in the pool and my husband realized the pool water had ripples. He said when he dove in, our daughter was almost to the very bottom of the deep end. Her diaper, heavy with water, pulling her down.

It’s been five years since that day and my family is still acutely aware that our story could have ended differently, that we could have lost our daughter to drowning because the pool gate was not latched properly, and we had all been inside the house.

Today, although both my children are strong swimmers, they are not allowed unsupervised in or near the pool.

Drowning is silent, it is quick, and it can happen to anyone.

It’s especially important this time of year, as the weather warms, to be aware around water and take as many precautions as you can.

Remember that pool safety is a life skill, not a nice to have. Being water safe can save a life.

Tips from the CDC, to help you and your family stay safe in the water:

  • Supervise when in or around water – designate a responsible adult to watch young children while in the bath and all children swimming or playing in or around water. Supervisors of preschool children should provide “touch supervision”, be close enough to reach the child at all times. Because drowning occurs quickly and quietly, adults should not be involved in any other distracting activity (such as reading, playing cards, talking on the phone, or mowing the lawn) while supervising children, even if lifeguards are present.
  • Learn to swim – formal swimming lessons can protect young children from drowning. However, even when children have had formal swimming lessons, constant, careful supervision when children are in the water, and barriers, such as pool fencing to prevent unsupervised access, are still important.
  • Use the buddy system – always swim with a buddy. Select swimming sites that have lifeguards when possible.
  • Seizure disorder safety -if you or a family member has a seizure disorder, provide one-on-one supervision around water, including swimming pools. Consider taking showers rather than using a bath tub for bathing. Wear life jackets when boating.
  • Learn Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) – in the time it takes for paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills could save someone’s life.
  • Air-filled or foam toys are not safety devices – don’t use air-filled or foam toys, such as “water wings”, “noodles”, or inner-tubes, instead of life jackets. These toys are not life jackets and are not designed to keep swimmers safe.
  • Avoid alcohol – avoid drinking alcohol before or during swimming, boating, or water skiing. Do not drink alcohol while supervising children.
  • Don’t let swimmers hyperventilate before swimming underwater or try to hold their breath for long periods of time. This can cause them to pass out (sometimes called “shallow water blackout”) and drown.

If you have a swimming pool at home:

  • Install four-sided fencing – install a four-sided pool fence that completely separates the pool area from the house and yard. The fence should be at least 4 feet high. Use self-closing and self-latching gates that open outward with latches that are out of reach of children. Also, consider additional barriers such as automatic door locks and alarms to prevent access or alert you if someone enters the pool area.
  • Clear the pool and deck of toys – remove floats, balls and other toys from the pool and surrounding area immediately after use so children are not tempted to enter the pool area unsupervised.

If you are in and around natural water settings:

  • Use U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets. This is important regardless of the distance to be traveled, the size of the boat, or the swimming ability of boaters; life jackets can reduce the risk for weaker swimmers too.
  • Know the meaning of and obey warnings represented by colored beach flags. These may vary from one beach to another.
  • Watch for dangerous waves and signs of rip currents. Some examples are water that is discolored and choppy, foamy, or filled with debris and moving in a channel away from shore.
  • If you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to shore. Once free of the current, swim diagonally toward shore.

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A tragedy such as drowning or near drowning cannot be prevented by insurance coverage but if you have questions or concerns regarding your personal property and liability, our Personal Line advisors at Brown & Brown can help.

Brown & Brown of Southern California

714-221-1800