Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children aged 1 to 4. Drowning deaths involving children younger than 5 in pools and spas is up and the number of emergency room treated pool and spa submersion injuries numbers remains in the thousands every year.
And a new 2008 Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report also says the majority of water related deaths and injuries occur in residential settings and involve children ages 1-2.
A new federal pool and spa safety law the "Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act" was signed by the President Bush on December 19, 2007 to improve public pool safety. It also brings attention to private pool safety. It was named for the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III, who at the age of 7, died in a spa after the powerful suction of a drain entrapped her under water.
The goal of the law is to improve the safety of all pools and spas, public and private, by increasing the use of layers of protection and promoting uninterrupted supervision to prevent child drownings and entrapments.
If your home has a pool, it behooves you to take recommended steps that will not only keep members of your household safe, but also improve the value of your home as a safe pool home.
A child can drown in less than five minutes, in two inches of water and not make a sound.
Drowning occurs most often when children get access to the pool during a short lapse in adult supervision. To reduce the risk of drowning, pool owners should adopt several layers of protection, including physical barriers, such as a fence completely surrounding the pool with self-closing, self-latching gates to prevent unsupervised access by young children. If the house forms a side of the barrier, use alarms on doors leading to the pool area and/or a power safety cover over the pool.
"I encourage all parents to contact their local American Red Cross chapter and ask about the many services offered," said Suzy DeFrancis, Chief Public Affairs Officer for the American Red Cross.
"From CPR and First Aid training to the Learn to Swim program, the Red Cross can be your greatest resource to preventing any pool and spa accidents this summer," DeFrancis added.
In addition, parents should use these tips to help prevent drowning deaths:
- If a child is missing, look in the pool first. You may have only seconds to save a child's life.
- Recognize your legal responsibility to provide a safe environment for children and adults alike. Be proactive in preventing accidents. All family members should learn to swim, they should know how to use safety equipment and they should take classes in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). It can be a lifesaver.
- Despite what your local building codes may or may not require, put a fence or wall around your pool. It should be at least four feet high and installed completely around the pool. Gates should be self-closing and self-latching. The latch should be out of a small child's reach. If your home forms one side of the barrier to the pool, doors leading from the house to the pool should be protected with alarms.
- For above-ground pools, steps and ladders to the pool should be secured and locked, or removed when the pool is not in use.
- Install a power safety cover and always use it when the pool is not in use. The covers also help prevent evaporation, they help keep heated pools warm and they help cut down on cleaning maintenance. Do not allow children in a pool or spa with missing/broken covers. Inserting an arm or leg into the opening can result in powerful suction and total body submersion/drowning.
- Keep rescue equipment by the pool including life preserver and reaching pole or other device. Also keep a phone poolside. Keep essential life saving gear accessible, visible, and in proper working condition.
- Remove the diving board from your private backyard pool. The risk of injury is too great. Everyone should walk, not run around the pool. Avoid pushing, shoving and horseplay in or around the pool.
- Use pool alarms as another layer of protection. Include remote alarm receivers so the alarm can be heard inside the house or in other places away from the pool area.
- Allow no one, child or adult, swimmer or non-swimmer, to enter the pool unless a responsible person is accompanying them. Never leave an accessible pool unattended. Non-swimmers should wear approved safety vests at all times in and around the pool. Flotation devices are not a substitute.
- Never let intoxicated guests enter your pool.
- Regularly maintain your pool so it doesn't become an mosquito (West Nile Virus) breeding ground. Inspect pools and spas for missing or broken drain covers. Don't leave toys and floats in the pool that can attract young children and cause them to fall in the water when they reach for them.