How Great is the Risk?
Diane sat cradling her daughter Dominique's limp body. Only moments earlier she found the child floating face down in the family swimming pool. As she screamed for help, Diane remembers thinking it was too late to save her little girl. Then Diane's pediatric nursing training took over; she stimulated her daughter, and as she was about to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, Dominique started to cry.
Diane and Dominique were fortunate. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there are about 375 drowning deaths of children younger than five each year in swimming pools, and thousands of children are treated in hospital emergency rooms for pool submersion injuries each year. Some are left permanently brain damaged as a result of swimming pool accidents. Most of these injuries were sustained in residential pools.
When the weather is warm and children are outdoors frequently, water safety becomes a serious concern for parents. Whether you live or are vacationing near a pool, lake, or even a small stream, vigilance and taking proper precautions are essential for avoiding tragic accidents.
It doesn't take long for a child to enter a perilous situation without a caregiver's knowledge. From its comprehensive study of drowning and submersion incidents involving children younger than five, the CPSC offers these staggering statistics:
- Seventy-five percent of the children involved in swimming pool submersion or drowning accidents were between ages one and three.
- Sixty-nine percent of the children who became victims in swimming pool accidents were not expected to be in or at the pool, but were found drowned or submerged in the water.
- Sixty-five percent of the accidents occurred in a pool owned by the victim's immediate family, and 33 percent of the accidents occurred in pools owned by relatives or friends. Fewer than two percent of the pool accidents were a result of children trespassing.
- Seventy-seven percent of pool accident victims were out of sight for less than five minutes—the time it takes to get a cup of coffee or answer the phone—and most of the victims were being supervised by one or both parents when the accident occurred.
"The family swimming pool is supposed to be the center of fun and recreation," says Todd Appleman, president and founder of eSafetyAlert.com (a safety products company offering the Safety Turtle® immersion alarm), and founder of the educational website PoolSafetyNetwork.org. "The problem is swimming pools are very dangerous for young children, particularly toddlers. Drowning is the leading cause of death for children under five and is the second leading cause of death for children under 14."
"We have a long way to go in educating the public," adds Appleman. "Despite extensive local public awareness efforts, and well-funded national public education campaigns aimed at teaching parents, grandparents, and other adults about pool safety and active adult supervision, the number of children drowning each year has remained constant."
Appleman says that while the pool industry is growing rapidly, adults are either not getting the message about pool safety or are not practicing what they know. "We need to be more effective in reaching parents with the messages about active parental supervision and precautions known as 'layers of protection'—the barriers that pool owners can put in place to help minimize the danger," he says.