“Just a moment, sweetie!”
How many times has your child asked for your attention and you’ve said, “just a sec” while you finish up another small task? As a local swim school owner, longtime swim coach and parent, I assure you that when it comes to pools and water, you don’t have a “moment.” That’s because water emergencies happen quickly and quietly.
Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death for children under 5, and in the majority of incidents, one or both parents was present. In 75 percent of drowning incidents, the child was missing for less than five minutes — really, just a sec.
Even as a drought situation threatens our ability to turn to water for recreation, families will start to enjoy the backyard and public pools as the weather warms. It’s never too soon — or too dry — to spend a moment on water safety.
SwimAmerica Davis teaches the Safer 3 Water Safety Foundation’s program, a multi-layered educational effort focused on the three primary areas of water safety: safer water, safer people and safer response.
“Safer water” focuses on using fencing, gate latches, alarms and other safety equipment around pools and boats.
“Safer people” stresses the importance of having constant responsible adult supervision around the water and learning proper swim skills.
“Safer response” addresses the importance of learning CPR, first aid and other rescue and emergency response techniques, as well as having a phone by the pool at all times.
What can you do?
Supervise young children at arm’s length: Young children and non-swimmers need to be supervised within arm’s length around all water — swimming pools, wading pools, lakes and rivers.
What exactly is arm’s length? My arm measures about 2½ feet, so it means you are sticking very close to your child. And yes, it probably means that you will need to get in the pool. I encourage you to enjoy this time with your child!
Swimming is fabulous family time — and probably one of the precious “unplugged” moments you have with your child these days. As an added bonus, according to First 5 California, the more you talk and sing to your preschooler, the more prepared she will be for school. Take advantage of pool time to help your child develop school readiness — while you keep her safer.
Learn to swim: You know that your child needs to learn how to swim to help him be safer around water. Learning how to roll over and float, as well as how to grab onto a wall, could one day save your child’s life.
But do you also know how to swim? To be able to supervise your small child properly, you need to be able to get in the pool (and out) yourself. In 2012, a Sacramento father died trying (unsuccessfully) to save his toddler who’d fallen into a backyard pool. He didn’t know how to swim himself. Anyone responsible for your child around water needs to know how to swim — as does your child.
Designate a water watcher: As the weather gets warmer, it’s time for backyard pool parties. Never assume that party guests are paying attention to activity in the pool — even for just a moment.
If the host hasn’t hired a trained lifeguard, we recommend a designated “water watcher” who will keep undivided attention on the pool. Rotating short water watcher shifts is a good way to share the responsibility and stay focused on a very important task. More water watcher information is available from SwimAmerica Davis.
That being said, however, if your child is very young or a non-swimmer, you (or a responsible adult) still need to be arm’s length from your child around the pool. Don’t rely on a lifeguard — that’s the last line of defense in an emergency, not arm’s-length supervision.
There’s no worse feeling as a parent than turning around to realize your child is missing — whether it’s in a shopping mall or near a swimming pool. Nothing can guarantee absolute safety, but if we all take a moment — just a sec — to focus on supervision and swim skills, we can make our families safer this summer and all year long.
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