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Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of pool season in many areas of the country. Cannon balls and flutter kicks can be great fun, but the National Safety Council reminds people that pools can lead to danger if certain precautions are not taken.
More than 3,700 people drowned in 2016 in the United States. Drowning deaths increase during the summer months and can happen to people of any age. These deaths are particularly prevalent among babies and toddlers. In fact, it was the leading cause of preventable death for 1 to 4 year olds in 2016, with 463 drownings.
Being prepared and knowledgeable about swimming is the first step. It’s never too late to begin swimming lessons. Many community organizations offer swimming lessons for all ages, including most YMCAs. In fact, my husband just began learning to swim this winter via our School and Community Recreation Program. They offered adult-only lessons at convenient times for working individuals. For the first time in his life, at age 39, he is excited to hit the water.
No person is immune to drowning, however, even after swimming lessons. The tried and true "buddy system" is important for everyone – no one should swim alone. Swimming in designated areas with lifeguards present is a great second step to assuring a safe summer. Parents need to remember that lifeguards aren't babysitters – parents should always keep an eye on their children and parents should keep young children within arm’s length at all times.
Children’s curiosity makes them a magnet to water. To prevent children from unsupervised access to home pools, a four-sided fence at least 4 feet in height is recommended. Pools should also have a self-closing, self-latching gate. All pools and spas must have compliant drain covers to protect adults and children alike from entrapment. Drains have powerful suction that can have deadly consequences if not properly covered. Do not use pools that have flat, broken or missing drain covers. For more information about compliant covers and keeping your home pool safe visit www.poolsafely.gov.
Last but not least, caregivers, including babysitters, can prepare for pool-related injuries by having a first aid kit nearby and emergency contacts programmed in their phone. Being trained in CPR and other rescue techniques is critical if a water emergency arises. Anyone planning any amount of time near water this summer should find a first aid class nearby and get trained today.
The benefits of swimming are numerous. It’s great exercise, can lead to lasting friendships and can be a fun – or relaxing – activity. By keeping pool safety in mind, we can help ensure that everyone has a fun and safe summer.