Spring is here…although it’s already feeling more like summer outside…and due to the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve all had to adjust to a new “normal.” With our new routines now being home centered, many families are cooling off in their own backyards. Whether you already had a pool in the backyard or have added a temporary one to enjoy, it’s still very important to practice WATER SAFETY.
The month of May is National Water Safety Month. This is an annual awareness campaign coordinated by the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance with support from the American Red Cross, National Recreation and Park Association and World Waterpark Association. The goal is to bring awareness to the dangers of being in or near water, and how to prevent drownings and injury.
Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury death from children between 1 and 4 years of age. But the reality is it is completely preventable through layers of protection. And while we are quarantining, it is the perfect time to ensure your family is being water safe. While the following layers of protection are always important, during this unique situation we all find ourselves in it’s even more imperative to be aware of how quarantine life can affect water safety.
The number one safety tip is to always be aware and alert when supervising children in or near the water. This includes pools, bathtubs, lakes, and any inflatables that may have standing water (such as those bounce house/slide combos we’ve all seen advertised for weekend rentals). When young or inexperienced children are swimming a parent or caregiver should always be within arms reach. For older and more advanced swimmers there should always be a designated water watcher. This is an adult whose sole responsibility is to watch the swimmers and remain free from distractions (cell phones, laptops, conversations, and/or alcohol). Letting the kids wear themselves out in the pool is a great way to stay sane, but active supervision is layer of protection number one!
Now with an increase of parents and caregivers working from home, distractions are at an all-time high. Some families may even be split between assisting school-aged children with online schoolwork and younger children looking for entertainment. This makes barriers around pools and locks/alarms on doors and windows a necessity. Pool safety fences should be four-sided, self-latching, and at least four feet in height. Any doors and windows leading to the water should have child safety locks. Even alarms that sound when doors and windows are opened, can be easily installed for extra protection. Kids are crafty and where there is a will, there is a way! And don’t forget to secure fencing, gates, locks, and alarms once done swimming. It’s easy to say “I’ll lock it back up later,” but that could be the layer of protection that makes the difference between life and death.
Since being quarantined at home, many families have been adding inflatable, temporary, and above ground pools to their otherwise pool-less backyards. These additions are a fun and easy way to cool down and enjoy the outdoors but should be treated just as any in-ground or permanent pool. If you plan to leave your pool filled with water, then barriers or safety covers should be installed. If you are using an inflatable pool, then it is safest to drain the water after each use. Standing water that is not filtered and treated with appropriate chemicals can also breed insects. The rest of the country may be worried about “murder hornets” but us Floridians could use that term for mosquitos.
Another layer of protection that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed is learning to swim. The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends children as young as one be enrolled in swim lessons to learn water safety skills. Unfortunately, most community and public pools are currently closed or only open to a limited number or patrons, mainly for lap swimming. That means the majority of swim instruction is currently not being offered, leaving many children more vulnerable in the water. If you were planning on enrolling your child in swim lessons this spring/summer you don’t have to just give up. You can start helping your child learn to swim by incorporating water acclimation while swimming in your home pool, or even during bath time. Practice kicking, splashing, blowing bubbles, floating, and submerging underwater. These are basic skills that all children should learn and will help prepare them for once formal lessons can resume.
There is no such thing as being too “safe” around the water, but also no one size fits all solution to preventing drowning. The American Red Cross offers a FREE Water Safety for Parents and Caregivers course online. It’s a great way to learn more safety tips and share with anyone who may be responsible for your child(ren) when swimming.
Stay safe and have a SPLASHING good time when swimming this summer!