Naples water safety
According to the Florida Department of Health’s website, “Florida loses more children under age five to drowning than any other state. Annually in Florida, enough children to fill three to four preschool classrooms drown and do not live to see their fifth birthday.”
But it gets worse. Nationwide, “for every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries,” says the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s website. “These nonfatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage that may result in long-term disabilities such as memory problems, learning disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functioning (e.g., permanent vegetative state).”
The good news is that drownings and near-drownings are preventable. Drowning prevention is a multi-layered process. Any level of protection can fail, so you must have other layers in place to protect your children.
Layer 1) Swimming lessons. Children can learn to swim and float from as young as six months old.
Layer 2) Pool fence. If you have a backyard pool and children, a pool fence (at least four feet high) is a necessity. It’s the most effect physical protection you can buy. But fences are only effective if they are properly secured when you are not in the pool.
Layer 3) Locked doors. Keep the doors to your lanai locked, and check that the locks are working.
Layer 4) Alarmed doors. This doesn’t have to be a loud, wailing alarm. Even just a “ping” when your door is opened is enough to alert you that your child has gone outside.
Layer 5) Avoid water wings and limit flotation devices. These give children a false sense of security. After wearing a flotation device in the water, children think they can stay up in the water even without the device. Children need to learn that they have limitations in the water. Sometimes, however, you may need a flotation device if you have multiple children or are in a situation where you could be distracted. The best choices are either puddle jumpers or life jackets, never water wings. But don’t forget that children can remove these on their own, and are no replacement for close supervision.
Layer 6) Close supervision. I know. You want to read a magazine and sip a drink while the kids are in the pool or at the beach. The problem is, you can’t. Kids need to be closely supervised around water. Once they are strong swimmers (without ANY flotation device) you can start to loosen that supervision a bit, but even strong swimmers need to have someone watching. Take turns with a friend or your spouse watching the kids, while the other relaxes.
Layer 7) Educate your child. Talk to your child (age appropriate) about being safe in the water. It is especially important to discuss what to do if they see another child or baby fall into water. Most kids want to be the hero and jump in the water, intending to save that child, which can result in a double drowning. Tell your child instead to scream and yell and find an adult immediately. Make sure your older children are aware of the consequences of leaving a door or pool fence gate open. And don’t give older siblings the responsibility of watching small children in a pool.
Layer 8) Learn CPR. If the unthinkable happens, knowing CPR can give your child valuable time before help arrives.
Layer 9) Get in the water. Play in the water with your children. It’s relaxing, fun, and safe!
Leigh Ann Newman is the owner of ABC Swim School in Naples, and is certified by PediaSwim to teach survival swimming skills to children ages 6 months to 6 years. She can be reached at 239-272-0529 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or through www.abcswimschool.com.