All children should learn how to swim. That was one of the messages conveyed by a public advisory the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued before the Fourth of July holiday week, when the number of summer drowning injuries and deaths peaks.
According to CPSC officials, 26 children on average lose their life in pool and spa-related accidents each year in the United States during the week of July 4, when thousands of gatherings take place around private and public swimming pools.
The CPSC relied on data compiled by USA Swimming, the National Governing Body for the sport of swimming in the United States, during the last three years. In 2012, 30 pool and spa-related drownings involving children younger than 15 were reported during the week of the July 4 holiday (June 30 through July 6). In 2011, 25 drownings were reported; and in 2010, 24 drownings for the same age range.
Approximately 300 children younger than the age of 5 drown in public and private swimming pools every year. Another 5,100 children younger than age 15 are treated in hospital emergency rooms for submersion / near-drowning injuries annually. According to hospital data, the children most at risk are between the ages of 1 and 3 and African American children between the ages of 5 and 19.
“I want families and friends to enjoy their time together in and around the pool during the July 4th holiday,” Chairman Tenenbaum said. “But if past years are any guide, unless we all follow the simple safety steps around the pool, more than two dozen families will suffer a tragic loss during the week of Independence Day.”
Learning how to swim is perhaps the best way to avoid drowning in a swimming pool, but there are several other important measures that can be followed to prevent a holiday celebration from turning into a tragedy. The CPSC recommends:
* Designate a “water watcher” – an adult who knows how to swim and is charged with supervising children in the pool at all times. This person should not read, text, use a smart phone or otherwise be distracted while on “duty.” Adults can take turns being the Water Watcher.
* Teach children basic water safety tips.
* Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments.
* Have a telephone close by when you or your family are using a pool or spa.
* If a child is missing, look for him or her in the pool or spa first.
* Share safety instructions with family, friends and neighbors.
* Learn how to perform CPR on children and adults, and update those skills regularly.
* Understand the basics of life-saving so that you can assist in a pool emergency.
* Install a four-foot or taller fence around the perimeter of the pool and spa and use self-closing and self-latching gates; advise neighbors to do the same at their pools.
* Install and use a lockable safety cover on your spa.
* If your house serves as one side of the fence around a pool, install and use a door or pool alarm.
* Maintain pool and spa covers in good working order.
* Ensure any pool and spa you use has drain covers that comply with federal standards. If you don’t know, ask your pool service provider whether your covers are in compliance.
* Have lifesaving equipment such as life rings, floats, or a reaching pole available and easily accessible.