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SWIMMING SAFETY

Every time I see a Child Drowns in Pool headline I feel sick.

We call such heart-wrenching events “accidents” or “accidental drownings”. One dictionary’s first definition of an accident is “an event occurring by chance or arising from unknown causes”. But the second definition is the one we should use in the context of child safety: an unfortunate event resulting from carelessness, unawareness, ignorance or a combination of these causes.

Obviously, if a child does not come in contact with the pool water there can be no drowning or near-drowning accident.

How do we reduce the interaction between a child and any agent that can do harm like pool water?

There are only two ways: ENVIRONMENTAL CONTROL and CHILD SUPERVISION.

There are two components to environmental control. Regulation is one. In most localities home pools must be properly fenced with self-latching gates. But not all communities have such laws. And older pools are often exempt.

Most important, regulation is never enough. Parents and child care givers must become safety partners with the regulating government agency. Parents actually have the more important role in environmental control because no government can watch every child.

Parents must see that the regulation pool fence is locked and ensure that there are no chairs, tables, or toys nearby that a child might use to climb over the pool fence. And all doors leading from the house should be equipped with self-closing, self-latching mechanisms.

And this is still not enough. Parents can never rely on floaties or other inflatable toys to protect a child. They must keep toys like tricycles out of the pool area and never permit running near the pool.

All pool areas should be equipped with rescue equipment like a pole and life ring and a telephone. Further if I were Dictator of Parenting I would make it mandatory that all parents, as well as all those who care for children, learn CPR.

Parents must understand and be responsible for CHILD SUPERVISION near water.

The rule is NEVER LEAVE A CHILD ALONE near any body of water (pool, wading pool, bathtub, bucket) even for a minute. A child can drown in less than a minute, less than the time it takes to answer the doorbell.

Sadly, children drown even when there are several adults around because no one notices the child slip under water and young children do not cry out or make an audible splash. Drowning is often called the “silent killer.”

Sometimes the adults are having a good time with lots of loud talk and laughter, sometimes there is alcohol as well. Sometimes the pool party is at night so darkness plays a role. Most often EVERYBODY THINKS SOMEONE ELSE IS WATCHING THE KIDS.

Sure, everyone wants to have fun and cool off around the pool. But no one wants their child to become a headline so what’s to be done?

Always have a “DESIGNATED CHILD WATCHER”, a parent or other responsible adult who is doing nothing but watching the children–not grilling chicken or talking to friends at poolside.

Who? As in the case of a designated driver who has fun at the party but does not drink so he or she can safely drive the others home, you can ask for volunteers, assign someone for a shift, or take turns. What you cannot do is assume the kids will be OK because there are so many people around the pool.

Most accidents can be prevented and our job as parents is to protect our children. So parents–and all those who EVER care for a child like grandparents, relatives, friends, sitters, neighbors–must educate themselves about potential hazards to children in their care.

Everybody responsible for young children must develop a “safety reflex”. This means you become so tuned to possible hazards and the methods to prevent accidents that you automatically lock the pool gate, turn the pot handle in, and buckle everybody up, including yourself, before you start the car.

Why does this safety reflex not always kick in? Several possible reasons: 1) ignorance of the potential dangers, 2) ignorance of the ways to prevent potential accidents, 3) the foolish feeling that an accident will never happen to them or theirs and 4) the misguided thought that their child COULD NOT or WOULD NOT do a specific dangerous thing.

In my experience parents are most often unaware of the developmental capacity of their young child (“I never dreamed he could climb up to the pool gate!”) or they expect too much of their child in terms of development (“He is so smart, he won’t do that!”) Sadly, such thinking can lead to tragedy.

Never assume. WATCH YOUR CHILD!

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