As a resident of Miami-Dade, you have genuine cause for concern. Florida ranks third in the nation for all drowning fatalities, and Miami-Dade County leads the state. Because our warm climate allows for swimming activities most of the year, there is an abundance of swimming pools in the county and we spend a significant portion of our lives in or around pools.
It doesn’t help that children don’t usually recognize the danger at all. In fact, they are drawn to the water like nothing else in the world. They never seem to tire of all the splashing, squirting, pouring, mixing and bubbling. The thought of potential hazards never occurs to them, which leaves the job of protecting them entirely on us.
Here are some tips for keeping your pool playtime safe:
- Teach children to swim. Swimming lessons are a lifelong gift that will help children stay safe around water into adulthood and allow them to enjoy water sports and activities to their fullest.
- Don’t assume that children who know how to swim don’t need supervision. Accidents can happen to anyone, no matter what age or swim ability. Even strong adult swimmers should avoid swimming alone.
- There is no substitute for adult supervision. A responsible adult should always watch children during all activities in or near the pool.
- Don’t assume that someone is watching. Just because there are adults present at a gathering or party doesn’t mean they are watching the swimmers. Adults often get caught up in socializing and might not even notice that a child is in trouble until it’s too late. Designate someone to watch the swimmers at all times.
- Don’t rely on flotation devices. “Floaties” or swim aids can’t take the place of supervision. They can shift position, slip off or deflate suddenly, leaving children in a dangerous situation.
- Don’t leave children unattended, even for one minute. Most child drowning incidents occur when an adult “just went into the house to get the phone” or “just walked away for a few seconds.” Keep a phone outside and if you must go in for some reason, take all children out of the pool until you can return.
- Block access to pools, spas and other water features in the yard using approved pool barriers. There should be no direct opening from the house into the enclosed pool area so that the barrier completely separates the pool from the house and the play areas of the yard. Make sure the barrier remains in place when the pool is not in use.
- Remove all toys from the pool and deck area after every use so that children are not attracted to them and tempted to gain access to the pool.
- Keep basic lifesaving equipment by the pool and know how to use it. A pole, rope, and personal flotation device are recommended.
- Learn CPR and make sure that all residents and caretakers in your home know what to do in case of a pool emergency.
- If a small child is missing in the house, check the pool first, before all other possibilities. Every second counts when it comes to drowning.
- It is imperative that adults maintain a healthy respect for the power of swimming pools to lure children into both fun and danger. Establish barriers and rules, and stick to them. Your kids will grow up to pass the same pool-safety habits to their own children one day.