The recent drownings of local young children has prompted Florida’s West Coast Region of the American Red Cross to issue water safety tips and to urge residents to learn how to respond should a water emergency arise.
Our state is surrounded by water and there are swimming pools and hot tubs in nearly every backyard. According to the Safe Kids Coalition, Florida leads the nation in drowning deaths for children under 5 years old. In fact, each year too many young Floridians are lost to drowning— the equivalent of four preschool classrooms, and an average of 74 children in each of the last 10 years. That equals 744 children who did not live to celebrate their 5th birthday.
The Tampa Bay Chapter of the American Red Cross reminds families to follow these safety tips for staying healthy and safe in or around the water:
Learn to swim and swim well. One of the best things anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water is learn to swim. No one, including adults should ever swim alone. Adults should practice “reach supervision” which means to be within arm’s length of a child in case an emergency occurs. Click here for a list of swimming classes and water safety courses in your area visit.
Adult supervision is essential to the safety of children around water. Adults must keep their eyes on the child at all times whenever they are in the water. Drownings can be silent and can occur even when an adult is in close proximity. If you must leave the area or otherwise be distracted, have another adult take over watching the child.
Toys in the pool attract young children. Remove any item that could tempt a child to jump into the water.
Remember, it may not be your child or grandchild that wanders into the pool area. Neighborhood children or visiters can also be enticed by the water. Make sure that all barriers are in place to prevent entry into your yard and especially the pool area.
Keep in mind that swimming pools are not the only drowning hazard. Bathtubs, toilets and buckets containing only a few inches of water can be attractive to young children and pose a serious risk for drowning.
Always keep basic lifesaving equipment by the residential pool and know how to use it. A first aid kit, cordless phone, phone list with emergency contact information, reaching pole and ring buoy with a line attached is recommended. Plastic ring buoys are a good idea; because of their maneuverability even a child can use one if the need arises.
The Red Cross recommends that pools be surrounded on all sides by a fence that is at least four feet high. It should not provide any footholds, which would allow a child to climb over or spacing to climb through. The fence should have a self-closing, self-locking gate locks when the pool is not in use. Remove all ladders from the pool area when not in use.
All doors leading to the pool should have alarms to warn when the door is opened. Alarms are also available for the pool itself which will alert when the water has been disturbed. The more layers of protection, the better.
Outfit everyone with the proper gear. Kids – and even adults – who are not strong swimmers or who appear to rely on inflatable toys for safety should use U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices (PFDs) whenever they are in or around the water. Everyone, including strong swimmers, should use an approved PFD when boating. When used properly, this lightweight plastic equipment can help save lives.
Download the free Red Cross Swim mobile app that supports and promotes the American Red Cross Swimming and Water Safety program. It provides adults with information about water safety in a variety of environments while allowing them to track and share the progress of their children through the Preschool Aquatics and Learn-to-Swim levels. Children learn about water safety through video segments from Longfellow’s WHALE Tales, age-appropriate water safety messaging and quizzes for the parent and child to complete together. Click here to download the app from the iTunes, Google Play or Amazon Marketplace app store.
Learn Red Cross first aid and CPR. While the above tips can help prevent emergencies, it is important to know what to do if a situation arises. All caregivers, including grandparents, older siblings and babysitters should have these lifesaving skills. Click here to register for a class in you area.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.