Water Safety Tips
Drowning is the second leading injury-related killer of kids ages 1 to 14, but these tragedies can be prevented if parents practice four "Water Safety Wisdoms" highlighted by the National SAFE KIDS Campaign.
Recent research by SAFE KIDS and Johnson & Johnson, examining 2000 and 2001 data from Child Death Review teams in 17 states, found that 88 percent of children who drowned were actually under the supervision of another person, usually a family member. Supervision was defined as being in the care of another individual, not necessarily in their direct line of sight.
While better quality supervision is critical, the study also found that many adults were not properly fencing pools, requiring use of personal flotation devices (PFDs) or teaching their children how to swim.
"We want kids to be active and enjoy swimming, but we want them to do it safely," says U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona, who joins SAFE KIDS in this important safety effort. "Drowning is a silent killer that can strike even older, more experienced child swimmers. The SAFE KIDS Water Safety Wisdoms will help keep children of all ages safe in the water this summer."
4 to Follow
As the summer season starts and children are more likely to be in and around water, SAFE KIDS urges parents to follow these 4 Water Safety Wisdoms:
- Supervision: SAFE KIDS recommends adults take turns serving as the designated "water watcher," whose sole responsibility is to actively supervise children in or near the water (and not allow themselves to be distracted by common practices such as eating, reading, talking to others, talking on cell phones or napping). Active supervision means that the adult can always see and hear the child and stays close enough to intervene in an emergency.
- Environment: Improve safety around residential pools and spas with installation and proper use of four-sided isolation fencing, which could prevent an estimated 50 to 90 percent of residential pool drownings. Isolation fencing means the fence completely separates the pool area from the house and the rest of the property, so a child cannot walk directly out a back door to the pool.
- Gear: Use properly fitting life vests in and around water, especially when boating, riding in personal watercraft and participating in water sports, to prevent an estimated 85 percent of boat-related drownings.
- Education: Enroll children in swimming lessons with a certified instructor by the age of 8. Nearly three-quarters of drowning victims researched did not know how to swim.
"Childhood drownings are not inevitable; they are preventable," says Dr. Martin Eichelberger, director of Emergency Trauma Services at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and CEO of the National SAFE KIDS Campaign. "These four Water Safety Wisdoms are critically important to the safety equation that will keep kids out of harm's way."
Don't Be a Statistic
The SAFE KIDS report, Clear Danger: A National Study of Childhood Drowning and Related Attitudes and Behaviors, supported by Johnson & Johnson, included nationally representative surveys of parents (of children 14 and under) and children ages 8 through 12 and revealed many startling statistics that contributed to the development of the 4 Wisdoms, such as the following:
- More than half (55 percent) of parents say there are some circumstances where it is acceptable for a child to swim unsupervised.
- Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of pool- or spa-owning parents do not have isolation fencing around their pools or spas, and 43 percent have no self-closing and self-latching gate.
- Many tweens (kids ages 8 to 12) admit they never wear a life jacket when riding on a personal watercraft (50 percent), participating in water sports (37 percent) or on a boat (16 percent).
- Although the majority of parents agree that all children should have swimming instruction by the age of 8, 37 percent of parents of children ages 5 to 14 report that their child has never taken lessons.