There is only one method guaranteed to protect your child from accidental drowning; constant and effective supervision.
More on Supervision:
As stated earlier, effective supervision is the first and most important way to prevent drowning. But, regardless of the best efforts and intentions, children cannot be constantly supervised. The phone will ring, there will be a knock on the door, or a neighbor will stop by to chat. Furthermore, constant supervision becomes difficult, if not impossible, if you have more than one child. Sadly, all to often a moment’s inattention costs a child his life.
Segmented Supervision is a technique that is more realistic with regards to balancing the needs of the real world with the demands of effective supervision. During segmented supervision, a specific period of time is devoted to focusing your complete and undivided attention to your child around the water. During that segment of time – usually 15 minutes – distractions of any type should be ignored. Set a timer to help you keep track of elapsed time, and during that period, do not answer the door, do not answer the phone, do not read, or even talk to other adults. Give your child 100% of your attention. After the time is up, bring your child inside to play, or to an area that is away from the pool environment. Or, if another parent or caregiver is around, take turns supervising in segments.
Remember, you are the CEO of the pool: Constant Eyes On!
More on Keeping Your Environment Safe:
If you have a backyard pool, or body of water, it is your responsibility to keep it safe, both for your children and others. Below is a checklist of ways to do it:
– Pool alarms and alarms on all doorway accesses to the pool: pool alarms can be purchased that sound an alert if the water surface is broken. Many home security systems can also be programmed to sound an alarm if the patio doors that give access to the pool are opened. While these alarms are helpful, the drawback is that they tend to often not be used consistently, and we are able to ‘tune out’ the sound if we hear it every time the door opens.
– Permanent Pool Fencing with a Self-latching Gate: It is recommended to get a pool fence that is at least four feet in height, and is installed permanently around the pool on the deck. The fence should prevent direct access from both the house to the pool, and the yard to the pool. A self-latching gate is a critical feature. Keep in mind, however, that many toddlers can easily scale even a four-foot fence in only a few minutes. Be sure to keep pool furniture inside the fence because children can use the furniture, or even toys that are outside, as a stepping stool to climb over the fence.
Did you know that the average 3 year old can climb a pool fence in 34 seconds?
– Keep all doors and windows leading to your pool locked at all times, preferably with locks that your child cannot reach. This includes sliding glass doors, French doors, and any windows that allow access to the pool area.
– Keep toys stored away. Toys that are kept around the pool area can be very inviting to young children. Remove the incentive to be in the pool area by keeping toys away from the pool when they are not in use. Riding toys should never be used in or around the pool area.
– Keep a portable phone by the pool: Keep a phone by the pool so that you can call for help immediately if there is any type of accident. Remember that the phone should be used only for emergencies – don’t answer it during segmented supervision. No phone call is important enough to justify compromising your child’s safety!
– Keep jets aimed towards the shallow end and the steps. If your child does fall into the water, properly positioned jets can create a current that will guide him or her towards the shallow end and steps giving the child a better chance to exit the pool.
– Keep water level at the uppermost limit. Unlike community or hotel pools, most residential pools do not have an edge around the inside of the pool that your child can hold onto. Keeping the water level at the uppermost limit will help make it easier for your child to reach the outside elevated ledge, and to either get out of the water, or to hold onto the edge and call for help. Make sure that if your pool has decorations, such as rocks, that would make it difficult for a child to hold onto the edge, that an edge is created that can be more readily grasped.
– No diving boards. There are simply too many ways that a child can injure himself. A diving board isn’t necessary to any pool environment, and creates a high risk of serious injury, and even death.
Children love playing with toys both in and out the water. However, there are toys that are recommended for playtime in the water, and others that will give your child an unrealistic idea about being in the water. It is important to avoid any type of flotation toys, such as ‘noodles’ and inflatable rings etc., which teach your child to trust the wrong posture in the water and can negatively affect his ability to perform the necessary skills if he slips off them or falls into the water at another time.
– Pouring cups: Cup sets, like plastic measuring cups, are fun for children to pour water in and out of
– Sinking toys, like dive sticks: these can be good for use on the steps, or if your child is older, in the shallow end, to teach your child to swim to the toy to retrieve it. But remember—your child should never dive off the edge of the pool for any reason
Toys to Avoid:
– Floaties or Arm Bands
– Flotation Vests
– Flotation Rings or Tubes
– Any other toy that allows your child to float vertically in the water
– Noodles for younger children if they are used to float the child in any posture.
Staying Safe in Other Aquatic Environments:
Although most drowning incidents occur in pools, many children die or are seriously injured each year in other types of aquatic accidents. Water is everywhere; lakes, rivers, beaches, retention ponds, and irrigation ditches can all pose serious risk to your child. Below are examples of ways to keep your child safe in other types of aquatic environments.
Spas, Jacuzzis, and hot tubs with their warm water and bubbles, can be particularly enticing for children. To prevent dehydration, or heat-related illness, keep the water temperature below 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and limit your child’s playtime to less than 10 minutes. Also, keep the jets off; the currents created by the jets can be particularly strong, and are very dangerous for young children. When the spa or hot tub is not in use, secure it with a hard top cover with a latch that locks.
If your family owns a boat, or you enjoy boating with others, it’s imperative that you take special precautions to keep your child safe on the boat. Most state and Coast Guard regulations require children to wear a life jacket on the boat. Yet various life jackets on the market – including those that are Coast Guard approved – may actually float children in a face down position! Even students skilled in the ISR Self-Rescue method find it difficult, if not impossible, to rotate onto and float on their backs, or even get upright in the water. Thus, it is imperative that you test the jacket in your pool to make sure that the jacket does not float your child face down.
If you have a dock on or near your property, take some special precautions. First, paint or tape a brightly colored “do not cross” line on the dock at least 2/3 feet from the edge of the dock, and teach you child that they should never cross that line.
In addition, because dock pylons are often covered by algae or barnacles, it can be impossible for a young child to hold onto a pylon if they fall into the water. To address this problem, install PVC piping on the pylons of the dock so that there is something for your child to hold onto if they fall into the water. The piping should be installed at various heights, to account for different water tide levels.
Finally, keep your dock well illuminated, and keep a dive mask in a box right on the dock. In the event that a child falls into the water, the lights will help you to search the dark water, and if you have a mask handy, you can immediately get into the water to start looking. Lakes and rivers can be especially dangerous because of their dark and sometimes fast-moving water, and because of this, effective supervision of your child anytime he is around a dock, river or lake is especially critical.
At the beach, where waves, currents, and undertows can happen in an instant, it’s especially important that you remain within 10 feet of your child at all times. Keep in mind that if your preschool aged child is standing in 12-18 inches of water, a two-foot wave will bring the water completely over his head. Make sure your child remains only in knee depth water.
When your child is at the beach, make sure he is dressed in bright colors, so that he is easier to spot in a crowd of people. Designate a specific brightly colored beach bathing suit, take a picture of your child wearing it and bring it to the beach. Make this your child’s “beach bathing suit.” That way, if your child is ever lost at the beach, you can show others helping in the search exactly what your child looks like and what he is wearing.
If your child is missing:
One of the scariest experiences a parent can have is a missing child, even if it’s only for a few moments. Most parents, at some point in time, have a heart-stopping moment when they can’t find their child.
If your child is ever lost, the FIRST place you must look is in your pool and/or hot tub. Don’t waste precious time looking your closets or under the bed—your child is less likely to be fatally injured hiding in those types of places. Bring your other children with you, so that they are not left unsupervised around water while you are searching.
After looking in your pool or hot tub, immediately search around all the nearby retention ponds or irrigation canals or ditches, or any other nearby source of water, including your toilets if they are not locked. Make searching all potential drowning hazard areas your first priority when searching for your missing child.
Children love to play hide and seek, but please teach your child that the pool area is strictly off limits to any type of hiding game. Children often run while playing these kinds of games, which dramatically increases the chance that they could fall into the water if running on slippery deck.
In many cases, there are several caregivers in a young child’s life. Nannies, baby-sitters, neighbors or family members all may have responsibility to supervise your child at some point, whether it’s on a full-time basis, or only occasionally. Because your child will inevitably be supervised by others at some point, it is vitally important that everyone who has responsibility for caring for your child is educated about water safety.
This means that everyone who cares for your child should be informed about the safety devices or procedures in your home, such as making sure that the pool alarm stays on that the pool fence is secure. Everyone who cares for your child should learn segmented supervision, especially if other children will be in their care.
It is important that you accurately communicate with those who may be watching your child that though your child has been in swimming lessons, that does not mean that your child does not need constant supervision any time he or she is anywhere near water.
Although the importance of aquatic safety has been stressed above, it is also important that both parents and children enjoy the water. The water should be respected, not feared, and by playing in the water under your supervision and guidance, your child will learn to have confidence in her ability and skill in the water. And, playing with our child in the water is the best possible type of supervision, because it’s often more fun to be playing in the water with your child than sitting and watching on the deck.