We hear it every day.
“Watch your kids around water.”
“Make sure they know how to swim.”
“Two seconds is too long.”
Sadly, we don’t hear it enough. Because we also read this:
“Child drowns in backyard pool.”
“Propped-open pool gate leads to child drowning.”
“Tragedy strikes backyard pool party, child drowns.”
My daughter is 3. She has taken swimming lessons since she was a toddler, and my wife and I are careful with her when she’s around water. I work for the American Red Cross Grand Canyon Chapter. We know about water safety.
Yet we nearly experienced a backyard pool tragedy. Two seconds is too long to take your eyes off a child around water.
It was a summer day in Phoenix. Victoria was in the backyard with my wife and I as my wife cleaned the pool. We had talked to Victoria about staying out of the water until we were ready to swim with her. She said she understood, however, we still watched her. We were enjoying a beautiful Saturday with our little one.
Then it happened. Victoria jumped into the water. She almost knew how to swim. We were there, within a few feet. But we didn’t hear anything, and when we saw her head under the water, we plowed into the pool to pull her to safety.
Even if you’re with your children, there’s often no splash or cry for help when they get into trouble in the water. They may slip under silently, unnoticed. That’s why two seconds is too long. Keep your eyes on your child every second.
Here’s a common scenario: Several adults are in the pool area with children. All have a false sense of safety because there are multiple responsible adults “watching” the kids. But who is watching them every second? Whose eyes are on those children?
Red Cross water safety experts recommend designating a child watcher. Use a hat or another item to mark that person as the child watcher. That symbol reminds him and others that his job is to keep his eyes on the children in the water until another responsible adult takes over. The only effective way to watch them is to stand, so you can visualize all the water. Especially water next to the pool’s edge – that’s where a child may get into difficulty, as he struggles to reach the side of the pool.
Some kids forget how to swim between seasons. A friend tells me this about her nephew: He forgot how to swim between his fourth and fifth summers. He jumped into the pool with confidence, then panicked. Even if your child is a good swimmer at the end of this season, be sure he’s still a good swimmer at the beginning of next season.
Do you know CPR? If not, learn it. There are classes available throughout our community. To register for a Red Cross class, call 1-800-733-2767 or visit www.redcross.org/takeaclass.
Do you and your kids know how to swim? Swimming lessons for all ages are available across the Valley. Find classes that fit your budget and your schedule.
If you have a backyard pool, keep it secure. Contact your local fire department and ask them for advice on how to ensure it’s safe. Proper fencing and gates are essential. Propping a gate open is never acceptable. Secure chairs and other things kids might use to climb over the fence. Remember that kids are always growing and learning. What is out of their reach today won’t be next month. They might not be strong enough to move a chair this week, but next week, they may decide to give it a try.
Folks tell us kids are never water proof and no backyard pool is ever totally safe. The best way to increase safety is to have multiple layers of protection. Fence your pool. Use self-latching gates. Be sure everyone in your household knows how to swim. When you have visitors, find out whether they can swim. Watch them closely. Take CPR lessons.
Do you have a doggie door? If so, secure it. Kids love to crawl out to the backyard through doggie doors. Have a cell phone near the pool when children are around water so you can call 911 if needed. Have water-rescue tools poolside. Purchase a life ring, and don’t use it as a toy. Hang it on the fence beside the pool, and keep it there.
Victoria could have drowned. We were lucky. Other families aren’t as fortunate.
American Red Cross Grand Canyon Chapter