By: Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer
(Courtesy of the Orange County Fire Authority)
Parents whose children have drowned say the day of the tragedy started out just like any other day. No matter how the drowning happened or where it happened — pool, spa, or any other body of water — one thing was the same, the seconds that claimed their child’s life slid by silently, without warning, and can never be brought back.
It is a fact that drowning is the leading cause of injury death of children under five years of age in 18 states. From 1991-1996, 47 children under five years of age drowned in Orange County, mostly in pools and spas.
Facts About Drowning:
•Children drown during routine household activities, with adults present and providing normal levels of supervision.
•Most children who drowned or nearly drowned were last seen in the house or away from the pool or spa.
Action Step: Protection
Use layers of barrier protection between the child and water to warn and impede. Pool and spa owners can take practical steps to make their pool and spa less dangerous by installing “layer of protection.” These include:
•Alarms on doors and windows leading to the water, installed about five feet above ground level so that a child cannot reach them.
•A non-climbable, five-foot fence that separates the pool/spa from the residence should be installed. Openings should be no more than four inches wide so children cannot squeeze through the spaces.
•Self-closing and self-latching gates and doors leading to the pool/spa with latches above a child’s reach. Gates should open outward.
•Pool safety covers (power operated are the safest and easiest to use).
Action Step: Supervision
Water with its rippling, shimmering appeal is a magnet for children. Children under the age of five have no fear of water and no concept of death. They associate water with play not with danger. Adults must establish and communicate responsibility for child safety.
•Assign an adult “water watcher” to supervise the pool/spa area or any other body of water, especially during social gatherings.
•Assign a second adult to maintain constant visual contact with children in the pool/spa area or any body of water that might attract a child. Don’t assume someone else is watching a child.
•Never leave a child alone near a pool/spa, bathtub, toilet, water filled bucket, pond or any standing body of water in which a child’s nose and mouth may be submersed.
•Don’t rely on swimming lessons, life preservers, or any other equipment to make a child “water safe.”
•Don’t allow children to play in the pool/spa area.
•Look in the pool area first if a child is missing.
•Communicate pool safety measures with the babysitter and train the sitter in CPR.
Action Step: Preparation
•Insist anyone over 14 years of age have current CPR in infant/child safety.
•Communicate pool safety measures with the babysitter and train the sitter on infant/child CPR.
•Learn how to swim and learn rescue techniques.
•Mount rescue equipment by the pool such as a lifesaving ring, shepherd’s hook, and a CPR sign.
•Post 9-1-1 emergency phone number on all phones. Have phone near pool area.
•Implement as many Layers of Protection as possible.
Partners in Child Safety: For more information about childhood drowning prevention, call the Orange County Fire Authority, Community Relations and Education Section at (714) 573-6200, the Drowning Prevention Network of Orange County at (714) 532-8887, or Children’s Hospital of Orange County at (714) 532-8887.