Water Safety Reminders

from National PTA

A trip to the beach or pool is always fun for everyone, but between sand castles and kickboards you need to remember that hazards can accompany water play.  Drowning is the second-leading cause of accidental deaths of children ages 1 to 14, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s report in 2005.  Keep some tips in mind so you can enjoy peace of mind as you head to the pool, river, ocean or lake – or at camp this summer.  Below are just a few tips for summer:

Teach your child to swim. You should teach your child to swim when he or she is ready—usually by age five. Of course, knowing how to swim doesn’t make children drownproof. An adult should always be present.

Always watch your child near or in water. Whether you are at the beach, a public or private pool, or live near a water hazard such as a well, pond, or stream, you should be at your child’s side at all times.

Beware of rip currents. Also known by the misnomer riptides, these currents don’t pull you under the water as some people think. They actually carry you out so far you can’t get back. They can occur at any beach with waves. You won’t be able to see or identify rip currents yourself, so before you leave for the beach, check the latest National Weather Service forecast for local conditions. Many offices also issue a surf zone forecast. Look for posted signs and warning flags at the beach. Check with lifeguards and do exactly what they say.

Be aware of tide changes. 
Low tide can change to high tide in a matter of minutes, quickly swamping a beach with water that can be dangerously high if your little one is playing there. Never allow your children to play in sea caves, which may flood with high tide. Refer to tide charts or ask a lifeguard or someone at your hotel so you will know when to expect tide changes.

Select a safe area to swim.
 If you are swimming in a lake or river, find an area that has good water quality and safe, natural conditions. Avoid murky water, plant life, strong currents, and unexpected drop-offs. Teach children never to swim under any docks, and be sure the docks you use are in good condition—no loose boards or nails. If you are swimming in a bay, river, lake, or ocean, avoid those with big waves and strong tides and currents. Always check local conditions with your hotel or with the local authorities.

Choose a supervised swim area and never swim alone. If you have a choice, a beach, pool, or lake that is watched by trained lifeguards is the safest bet. Even if trained lifeguards are present, you still need to remain vigilant and at your child’s side.

Always use a life jacket when boating, fishing, or just sitting on a dock or jetty. A life jacket can be used to help a weak swimmer as well, but your child should only use one that is labeled as U.S. Coast Guard approved. Also check the label on the life jacket to be sure it is intended for your child’s weight. Never allow your child in a boat without a life jacket.

Filter pumps for inflatable pools can be dangerous. These pumps do not have ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection to prevent electrical shock, and because they are not permanently mounted, it is possible for them to wind up in the pool while operating. Many building codes require filter pumps to be permanently connected to in-ground pools. If you have an aboveground pool, use a filter pump that is designed to be permanently mounted. If the pump has a plug instead of being permanently wired, make sure you plug it into a GFCI-protected circuit.

Not all pool covers are safety covers.
 Safety covers must be made of strong material and must be securely anchored into a concrete or wooden deck. This means they can only be installed over in-ground pools or on aboveground pools that are surrounded by a wooden deck. Do not use clip-on covers for aboveground pools. If a child falls into a pool with a clip-on cover he could get trapped under the cover or entangled in the cover.

Enclose your pool.
 If you install an aboveground pool, an in-ground pool, spa or a hot tub, you might be required by state or local regulations to enclose it so that children cannot get unsupervised access. Enclose your pool with non-climbable fencing that is at least 4 feet high and includes a self closing, self-latching, lockable gate. The latch must be out of the reach of children. The gate should open out from the pool so a child can’t open it by pushing on it. If you have a spa or hot tub, at the very least make sure it has a cover that securely locks. Be diligent about locking the cover whenever you are not in the spa or hot tub.

Be ready for emergencies.
 No matter what type of pool your child is using, keep a phone and first-aid kit close by in case of emergency. Learn CPR and always have a life preserver and shepherd’s hook in the pool area to pull a child to safety, if necessary.

Teach your child to ask before jumping or diving. Your child doesn’t know the risks of jumping or diving into a pool or other body of water. The only time she should be allowed to jump or dive in is when an adult present knows the depth, knows it is safe, and is sure there aren’t any underwater objects that could harm her.

Make sure your pool is equipped with an SVRS.
 The suction from a water circulation drain can cause a child to become trapped underwater. To prevent this, be sure the drain or drains on your pool have a Safety Vacuum Release System (SVRS) to combat possible suction entrapment. An SVRS will detect strong suction—from a body entrapment, for example—and shut off the pump immediately. You should see this fixture at the filter pump. If you don’t have an SVRS, you can get one retrofitted. Some spas and hot tubs also incorporate SVRSs into the design of their circulation system.

Keep kids away from pool drains.
 Teach your children to stay away from all pool and spa drains, whether or not there are SVRSs. Many incidents involve girls with long, fine hair that gets pulled into a drain. If your child has long hair, make sure she wears a bathing cap or has her hair gathered in a ponytail or bun. Even wading pool drains can be very dangerous; young children have suffered serious internal injuries by sitting on them.

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