Summer is time to refresh water safety rules
The tragic drowning of Bode Miller’s daughter reminds us all to be vigilant water watchers.
Beth Stambaugh Published: 6/28/2018
A recent news story reported the sad news that the 19-month-old daughter of Olympic gold medalist Bode Miller drowned in a pool accident. Unfortunately, this is the time of year when child drowning stories are in the news. Drowning is the leading cause of death among children under five, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and Florida leads the nation in the number of children who die from accidental drownings.
“Toddlers are curious. They’re drawn to the water and they’re quick,” said Cynthia Dennis, RN, coordinator, Safe Kids Northeast Florida, led by THE PLAYERS Center for Child Health. “And drowning is silent – you won’t hear a child splashing around or yelling under water.”
It takes less than two minutes for a child to lose consciousness in the water.
“You must keep your eyes on kids in the water at all times – nothing less than constant visual supervision,” Dennis said.
Because it’s easy to assume someone else in the group is watching, Dennis recommends the “Water Watcher” system, where adults take turns being the designated supervisor. “This person agrees to focus 100 percent on the kids and be at arms’ length reach with no distractions,” she said.
The designated adult wears a Water Watcher tag. “If you don’t have a tag, improvise with a big silly hat or something that makes it obvious who is watching,” recommended Dennis. You can order a free Water Watcher tag and other water safety items by calling 904.202.4302.
As with the Bode Miller tragedy, children often gain access to water through an unlocked door that leads to a pool. That’s why multiple barriers to the water are necessary. “Place a lock that is out of reach of children on any door or window leading to a pool,” Dennis recommended. She also recommends audible alarms on doors and windows and, of course, a protective, locked gate around pool’s perimeter.
Here are a few additional tips to increase water safety:
No water wings. They might look cute, but they aren’t effective. Instead, use a flotation vest that is Coast Guard-approved.
Get wet. Be in the water with young kids who can’t swim. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends “touch supervision,” where your hands are on the child at all times.
Just keep swimming. Summer isn’t the only time for kids’ swim lessons. Consider year-round lessons to keep swimming skills sharp.
Know CPR. Parents, caregivers and pool owners should be trained in CPR.
Find more tips about child water safety here.