There is no substitute for “eye to eye” contact!
By Janice Jaicks
Most of the child fatal and non-fatal drowning incidents in the state Arizona happen because of a parent “losing track” of their child or poor supervision. Having a child is a big responsibility and having a swimming pool in your own backyard is an even bigger responsibility specially if you have young children. In recent years, I have had several almost “desperate” parents with two year olds, who would call wanting immediate swim lessons. Although I encourage and applaud parents requesting swim lessons for their children, it concerns me when a parent might assume that swim lessons can make a child totally drown proof. Often, I hear parents asking- “Will my child be comfortable once they have eight lessons with you”?. While most likely my answer is NO, as I wonder and reflect on what really does one mean by “comfortable”?
In an article at the Arizona Republic during the summer of 2010, Gilbert Assistant Fire Chief Vance Gray once reiterated the “ABC’s” of drowning prevention, which include Adult supervision, Barriers and enrolling in CPR classes and swimming classes. The story unfolded many water-related incidents involving young children and lack of supervision among varios parts of Arizona. Gray, further pointed out the following:
- Fences should stand at least 4 feet (130 centimeters) high with no foot or handrails for kids to climb on.
- The slats should be less than 4 inches (110 millimeters) apart so a child can’t get through, or if chain link, should have no opening larger than 1¾ inches (50 millimeters).
- Gates should be self-closing and self-latching, and the latch should be out of kids’ reach
Don’t assume that a child who knows how to swim isn’t at risk for drowning. All kids need to be supervised in the water, no matter what their swimming skill levels are. Infants, toddlers, and weak swimmers should have an adult swimmer within arm’s length/reach to always provide “touch supervision.”
Although here in Arizona we live in the “desert” there are many backyard, above ground or inflatable swimming pools, lakes, canals, and even bathtubs, sinks, hot tubs and buckets. A child can drown in as little as TWO inches of water!
A word about boating
If you are involved with boating with your children, invest in proper-fitting, Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices (PFD’s)(life vests), and be sure your child puts his/her vest on before he/she boards the boat. Always check the weight and size recommendations on the label, before its use, then have your child try it on to make sure it fits snugly. For kids younger than 5 years old, choose a vest with a strap between the legs and head support — the collar will keep the child’s head up and face out of the water. Inflatable vests and arm devices such as water wings are not effective protection against drowning and should not be a substitute for a life jacket. The state of Arizona has been bashed by being one of the worst states for boating accidents. Furthermore, many of these accidents are alcohol related!
Every second counts when it comes to water emergencies. If you are a residential pool owner take a cordless phone with you when you’re watching kids during water play. A quick-dial feature keyed to 911 or your local emergency center will also save additional seconds. If you receive a call while supervising kids, keep your conversation brief to prevent being distracted. Be sure that anyone who is caring for your child understands the water safety rules and how important engaging in both eye to eye contact and constant supervision is.
It is often too common to be distracted with scenarios such as this one : You are at a pool party and there are twelve adults and four children. An 18 month old is three feet from her mother who is in the pool talking to another woman. This 18 month old all of the sudden finds her way to the pool edge and is submerged under water, eyes wide open, hands floundering, and no one knows the baby was there. Suddenly, one of the dads on the deck notices her and pulled her out, but luckily she was fine. Hard to believe it isn’t it? I was actually present that day as the baby girl was my niece , Hannah, 22 years ago! I will never forget that day. Needless to say, parent supervision is very important so always watch your children and never leave them unattended!