After two accidental drowning deaths recently in Broward County, the American Red Cross (ARC) urges South Floridians to take extra precautions around home swimming pools and other places where children might swim unsupervised.
“While we are all looking forward to a summer of fun with our family and friends, it’s important to remember that most water-related accidents can be avoided by knowing how to stay safe and following a few simple guidelines,” said Hunter Ruffin, regional director of Health and Safety Services at the American Red Cross South Florida Region.
“Everyone should know how to swim well. We can help families stay safe by teaching skills through our swimming and water safety program that teaches children and adults to learn how to swim skillfully and safely.”
A survey conducted by the American Red Cross in 2009 shows the importance of water safety skills, with half of those surveyed saying they have had a neardrowning experience in their lifetime.
The survey found that 48 percent reported a near-drowning experience, and nearly one in three said they had a near-drowning scare between the ages of 5 and 15. The national survey of 1,002 adults was conducted in late March in advance of the summer to assess the water activity plans of families and their water safety knowledge and training.
The Red Cross survey found more than 90 percent of people planned to participate in water-related activities in the summer with nearly half of parents — with children between the ages of 3 and 17 — planning to engage in water-related activities where no lifeguard would be on duty. If you plan to head to the pool or to the beach this summer or if you have a backyard pool, follow these tips from American Red Cross South Florida Region to have a fun and safe time on the water:
• Never leave children unattended near water — not even for a moment! Adults should practice “reach supervision,” which means to always be within arm’s length when a young child is near water. For older children — even adults — who are not strong swimmers, practice “active” or constant supervision and make sure they wear U.S. Coast Guard approved lifejackets whenever in or around the water.
• Know how to respond to an emergency. You should know how to tell if a swimmer is in distress or is drowning and how and when to call for emergency help. You also should learn how to help someone in trouble in water while keeping safe yourself. Do not create a situation where you become a victim as well. Enroll in Red Cross water safety, first aid and CPR courses to learn what to do.
• Keep lifesaving gear handy. Always have on hand a ring buoy, life jacket, rope, pole or other object that can be used to help a person in trouble. Remember to have a first aid kit, cordless phone and emergency contact information by the pool.
• Know when it is too dangerous. If you, or someone you are swimming with, appear to be too cold, too far from safety, been exposed to too much sun, or had too much strenuous activity, it is time to head for shore or signal for help.
• Eliminate temptation. Backyard pools should have self-closing, self-latching gates that remain locked when the pool is not being used. Kiddie pools should be emptied and toys removed immediately after use. Empty water pales and buckets so small children cannot fall in and drown.
• Know what you’re getting into. Check local tides, currents and other conditions that could be dangerous before entering open bodies of water.
For more information on learn-to-swim classes, or pool safety tips, contact the American Red Cross at 305-644-1200 or 1-954-797-3800.