According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), drowning is a nationwide problem. From 2007 – 2009, 243 children drowned in pools and spas during the summer months (63% of the average yearly figures during this time period). From 2005 – 2009, there was an average of 3,533 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the U.S. -- about ten deaths per day. In boating-related incidents, 347 people died annually from drowning.
In Virginia, drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional deaths. In the U.S., it is the second leading cause of unintentional injury among children 14 years of age and under. Toddlers and children ages 1 – 4 are the highest risk for drowning. In 2012, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, there were 137 incidents of children drowning; of those children, 100 were younger than the age of five. Of that age group, during the same period of time, 168 children required emergency treatment for near-fatal accidents in spas and pools. An alarming fact is that a majority of drownings, involving younger children, often occur when adults are present, yet, become distracted when engaged in other activities.
According to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), Division of Injury & Violence Prevention (DIVP), during 2002 – 2006, 46% of drowning deaths occurred in rivers, lakes, bays and other natural bodies of water, 13% occurred in swimming pools and 12% occurred in bathtubs. The circumstances in which a person drowns can differ depending on the age of the victim. For example:
Bathtubs, buckets, toilets
· Infants younger than one year of age
· Children 1 – 4 years of age
Natural bodies of water (lakes, ponds, rivers and oceans)
· Teenagers and adults
Children, under the age of 5, are a high risk for drowning for several reasons:
· They are active, curious, and spontaneous.
· Their bodies are top-heavy.
· They do not have an understanding of the dangers of pools and standing water.
· They do not struggle when they are in the water; therefore they drown without making a sound.
Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue urges the community to be vigilant in preventing injuries and drownings by taking the following precautions when you and your loved ones are in and around water:
· NEVER leave a child unsupervised near a pool, spa, bathtub, toilet, water-filled bucket, pond or any standing body of water for even a second!
o ALWAYS designate a responsible adult to be the “Water Watcher” of young children while in and around water. The designated adult should not be involved in other distracting activities, i.e., answering the phone, playing games, etc.
· Install a four-sided, 5-foot fence gate that is self-closing and self-latching (latches should be above a child’s reach). The fence should surround any pool or spa with openings no more than 4 inches wide to prevent children from squeezing through the spaces.
· DO NOT use flotation devices, i.e. air-filled or foam toys, noodles or inner tubes in place of life jackets/pfds (personal flotation devices). Many flotation devices are considered as toys and not designed to keep swimmers safe.
· DO NOT allow children to play in and around the pool or spa area. Remove all toys, balls and floats from around or in a pool.
· Learn to swim.
· Avoid swimming after dark and in muddy waters of lakes, ponds and rivers.
· Regardless of one’s swimming ability, size of the boat or distance to be traveled, require all persons to wear U.S. Coast Guard approved lifejackets/personal flotation devices (pfds) when boating or involved in water-related recreational activities.
· DO NOT dive into above-ground pools, shallow water or water where you don’t know the depth. Diving into shallow water can cause spinal injuries.
· ALWAYS swim and/or boat with a buddy and select areas with lifeguards.
· Avoid alcohol consumption or use of other drugs while supervising children during recreational water activities or participating in recreational water activities.
· Check the local weather conditions prior to engaging in recreational water activities.
· Learn CPR! It saves lives.
Individuals can reduce even eliminate water-related injuries and deaths by simply changing their behavior. Hence, before heading to the park, beach or local neighborhood pool, implement safety measures that will protect you and your loved ones when in or near water.