Public swimming pools are intended to be a safe place of recreation. Swimming pools in recreation centers, community centers, schools, and clubs all are required to have safety measures in place. The safety measures include barriers that prevent people from entering the pool after hours, on-duty lifeguards, and other safety precautions. Despite this, children and adults alike are injured in pools every year.
USA Safekids reports that for children ages 14 years of age and under, drowning constitutes the second major cause of injury-related fatality. In 2004 alone, 3702 children had near-drowning experiences that required emergency treatment. In about 40% of these cases, children had nearly drowned in swimming pools. According to the Drowning Prevention Foundation, 19% of childhood drowning deaths occur in public pools with certified lifeguards present. The Orange County California Fire Authority reports that a swimming pool is 14 times more likely than a car to cause the death of children 4 years of age and under.
Parents should not just be worried about fatalities, either. According to the National Safety Council, 5,000 children ages 14 and under are hospitalized due to near-drowning-related injuries. Of these an estimated 15% die in the hospital while another 20% suffer severe and permanent disability. Common pool-related injuries include broken limbs, head injuries, spinal cord injuries and other injuries.
Most experts agree that parents can help prevent these types of injuries by:
1) Making sure that someone is watching children at all times pool-side. Many accidents occur because someone watching children in the pool was momentarily distracted. According to the Orange County Fire Authority, 70% of preschool drowning victims are in the care of one or both parents at the time of the drowning. 75% of these victims are only left unattended or unobserved for five minutes or less. Most children who die of drowning – 86% — are found after 10 minutes while 92% of survivors are discovered within two minutes of submersion, according to the National Safe Kids Campaign. Clearly, ensuring that no one has submerged for a long time is essential. Having several parents or adults observing at all times is key. Asking children to get out of the pool periodically is also essential.
2) Covering pools when not in use. Parents should make it their business to ensure that outdoor pools and any sort of public pools are covered and are not a temptation for children. If you see a pool that is not safely secured, ask the owner of the building to secure it.
3) Teaching children to swim. Swimming classes that teach children water safety are a good way to ensure that children respect pools and know how to prevent injuries. Providing extra classes with a qualified instructor ensures that children have the strength and know-how to swim safely. CPR and emergency courses for any adults supervising children pool-side are also a good idea.
4) Ensuring that children don’t run or engage in other risky behavior near the pool. Slip and fall accidents can easily turn deadly if a child slips into the deep end of a pool and bumps his or her head on the way in.