Commentary: Be water wise
July 24, 2009
Did you know that drowning can happen in just a few seconds' On average, it takes only 20 seconds for a child and 60 seconds for an adult to drown.
Drowning is often a silent event, especially for children; those 5 years and under don't understand the danger of falling into water and don't usually splash, cry or call out for help.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2005 an average of 10 deaths per day occurred due to drowning. More than one in four drowning victims were children aged 14 and younger. For those who only "nearly drown," the end result is often tragic. Near-drowning may result in memory lapses, learning disabilities or severe brain damage.
As the weather gets warmer, many Soldiers and their Families will seek recreation in or around water. While having fun may be the top priority, it is important to take steps like these to prevent drowning and near drowning:
Designate a responsible adult "water watcher" to supervise all children swimming or playing in or around water. This adult should not be distracted by anything else; that means no chatting with other people or book reading, no cell phone texting or grilling.
Avoid drinking alcohol before or during swimming, boating or water skiing. Be especially careful not to drink alcohol while supervising children.
For home pools, install a four-sided, isolation pool fence that completely separates the house from the pool area. The fence should be non-climbable and at least 4 feet tall. Use self-closing, self-latching gates that open outward and have latches above the reach of children. Place items that can be used for climbing (like tables and chairs) away from fences.
Remove all floats and other toys from the pool immediately after use. These toys can tempt children to enter the pool area or lean over the pool and potentially fall in.
Know the local weather conditions and forecast before swimming or boating. Bad weather can make swimming and boating very dangerous.
Use only U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets when boating. Always use life jackets, regardless of the distance to be travelled, the size of the boat or the swimming ability of the boaters. Do not use air-filled or foam toys (like "water wings") in place of life jackets.
Never swim alone, even if you are an excellent swimmer.
You should also plan ahead for water emergencies. Teach everyone how to use safety equipment and how to call 9-1-1. Finally, learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Your CPR skills could make a difference in someone's life in the time it might take for paramedics to arrive.
Summertime means fun in and around the water. But be water wise and prevent drowning and other water injuries.
For more information about water safety, visit these Web sites:
The CDC, www.cdc.gov/SafeChild/Drowning/default.htm.
Safe Kids U.S.A., www.usa.safekids.org, and search on "drowning."