Keep your swimmers safe at home
By Amy Merck and Shari Berg, Tribune Content Agency
Florida leads the country in drowning deaths of children ages 1-4 — three times the national average, according to the Safe & Healthy Children’s Coalition. Residential swimming pools account for about 60 percent of drownings, according to the Florida Department of Health. A child can drown in a few minutes — the amount of time it takes to run inside to get a towel.
The risk of drowning correlates to the number of pools in the area. With 67,000 registered backyard pools in the county, according to the Orange County Department of Health, pool safety is everyone’s responsibility.
Layers of safety
Geoff Dawson, president and founder of The Pool Safety Resource, says he believes layers of protection are best.
“If one layer should fail, you have another layer of protection,” Dawson says. “The more ... layers we have in place, the safer our children will be.”
Layer 1 - Supervision: This is the most important element in pool safety, according to the Florida Department of Health’s WaterproofFL campaign. This doesn’t mean having a bunch of adults sitting around the pool. Too often, there is a false sense of security in numbers. Drownings are quick and quiet. Don’t assume someone is watching. Assign someone to focus solely on the people in the pool.
Dawson recommends the supervising adult wear an identifying lanyard, and the duty be handed to someone else every 15 minutes to ensure the “watcher” is always fresh.
Dawson also warns against relying too heavily on floatation devices to keep children safe.
Layer 2 - Barriers: A child should never be able to get near a pool without adult supervision. It is too easy for a child to slip out a back door undetected and end up in the pool. Childproof locks, door alarms, fences, gates and professional covers all introduce obstacles between a child and a pool. The Florida Department of Health recommends using a combination of barriers.
“Isolate the pool as much as possible, particularly using fencing, and only go through that fencing when you want to use the pool,” says Dawson.