According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), ten people die from unintentional drowning, every day; ranking drowning fifth among leading causes of unintentional injury deaths in the U. S. (ranks sixth in Virginia). Among those fatal statistics, one in five are children, 14 years and younger, and for every child that drowns another five receive emergency care for nonfatal submersion injuries which can lead to severe brain damage resulting in long-term disabilities such as memory problems, learning disabilities and a permanent vegetative state.
Drownings are the leading cause of unintentional injury death for children ages 1-4 and the second leading cause of death for children 5 – 14 years old. From 2011 – 2013, a yearly average of 4,900 pool or spa-related hospital emergency treated submersion injuries occurred; 390 were fatal involving children under the age of 15. According to CPSC, reports of fatal submersions involving younger children often occur when adults are present; more than half (59%), the highest percentage of the reports, attributed the drownings to a lapse of adult supervision.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day 2013, approximately 202 incidents of children between the ages of 1 and 14 drowned in a swimming pool or spa in the U.S. Of those children, 143 were younger than the age of 5. With, Memorial Day, the first holiday of the summer, only a few days away, 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.