Out of Site, Out of Life

By: Doug Jones

Every year about 300 American children under five drown in a swimming pool, most often the one in their own back yard. A further 2,000 toddlers are sent to the emergency room with submersion related injuries. Most of them were being supervised by at least one parent and had been out of sight for fewer than five minutes.

The fact is that a child can drown in a few inches of water and will most likely do it without making any sound to alert you. In the time it takes to notice your child is gone, it could be too late.

Pools can be the center of fantastic family memories, but in Arizona, California and Florida they are the leading cause of accidental death in the home for toddlers. That's a memory most families can do without. The real tragedy is that drowning is a preventable accident. So before you turn your pool, hot tub or spa into roller-rink, why not take some simple steps towards safety? Armed with these statistics and some new ideas, you can make your pool the safest on the block.

When you are around the water, keep your child within arm's reach whenever possible. Life jackets are an added safety feature, but should not be used as a substitute for supervision. Children should be taught to swim, but knowing how to swim doesn't mean they can be left alone. Children should always be supervised while in and around water.

Children are naturally attracted to water - it's important to try to help them understand the safety concerns as much as possible without scaring them. When you leave the pool, remove all swimming toys, floats and anything else that might attract children from the pool area.

As their abilities change, toddlers are more apt to explore, putting them in a higher risk category. In fact, with all this newness you might find your child doing something today that they would never have dreamed of doing last week. This is why having several layers to prevent access to the pool is so essential.

Install a barrier or fence around your pool. It should be at least four feet high with a gate that is both self-closing and self catching - ensure that the latch is out of reach of children. Remove pool ladders to prevent access when you aren't using the pool. If you have a door leading to the pool, install an alarm with a control pad that children can't reach. Make sure you can hear the alarm inside the house - this will alert you if a child wanders towards the pool unnoticed.

Consider using a safety cover when the pool is not in use. This could be the essential barrier between a toddler and the bottom of a pool.

Remember, when a child is missing always search the pool area first. Keep rescue items near your pool (a tow, throw, etc) and make sure there is easy access to a phone. Consider taking a first aid course - quick CPR can make a huge difference in preventing or limiting brain damage. Every second counts.

Don't become a statistic: a bit of forethought can keep ensure that your pool is the site of safe, happy memories.

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