By Karen Piso Nadeau, Esquire
What We Can Do to Decrease the Risk of Drowning During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Pediatricians are warning that the drowning risk for kids may increase this summer during the coronavirus pandemic. Parents are multi-tasking and working from home. Families are purchasing more inflatable or kiddie pools. All of this increases the dangers of kids around water. The American Academy of Pediatricians is urging families to add layers of protection to keep children safe around water at home.
The theme is: know where your kids are and pay attention to them.
Six of the recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatricians include:
- Assign water watchers that are not distracted to supervise children
- All adults and children learn how to swim
- Install the necessary fences, gates and latches
- Empty kiddie or inflatable pool when playtime is over
- Use life jackets
- Adults and caregivers learn CPR
On-line learning for our children during the pandemic is slowing down and the end of a very unusual school year of zoom meetings and classes on-line is approaching. Families are now trying to figure out how they will have a summer and keep the kids entertained during the coronavirus crisis. Many beaches are closed or have limited access and summer vacations have been canceled. With families staying home, many are deciding to get some sort of a pool.
While many businesses are struggling to survive during the coronavirus pandemic, those businesses specializing in selling outdoor items say they are thriving as people social distance at home. Families are taking the money on cancelled vacations and buying pools to “staycation”. According to Boston News 10, pools and hot tubs are flying off the shelves. Pools are in high demand and installations are running into late July according to some in the pool business.
I grew up spending long summer days hanging around a pool. My sister, brother, four cousins and I had a blast together never considering the responsibility on my Mom and Aunt as the seven of us ran wild. There was always visitors coming and going all summer long. The interesting thing is that all the pool safety tips on the internet about avoiding dangers around pools were practiced by my Mom and Aunt with no help from anyone or any source back then. They just did it while the seven of us had fun in the sun, some days all getting along and other days it was the boys against the girls, instigating each other and tormenting our mothers. Only to start all over again the next day. It seemed endless to us. It was summer bliss.
I recall that a concrete and brick fortress with two locked steel gates on each end surrounded the pool deck. There were also these lion statues on top of the concrete fortress that seemed to watch over us- but that is a whole other story. We would always scream, “Auntie is here, and the gate is closed, Hurry up! Open it!” The incredible fencing and locked gates were all super safety measures. We all took swimming lessons and learned to swim at a young age and swam in the Mystic Lakes back then. We all could swim- another safety measure in place. The seven of us were so annoyed that we could not go in the pool unless one of the mothers was with us. Adult supervision- another check for safety. There was no diving and no running on the pool deck and you must wipe your feet and dry off before leaving the pool deck or you will slip and slide on the tile floor and break your head open. But that is for another blog on slip and falls… My Mom and Aunt had a safety plan in place when we were all around a pool, and I don’t even think they knew they did. They just did it. And those were the best days.
It wasn’t until I had my own kids that I really understood that pools are not just fun in the sun. Pools were a lot of work and a big responsibility. Without the proper safety measures, pools are dangerous and at worst, deadly. As a lawyer representing families experiencing the tragic loss of a child to drowning, the heartbreak and suffering I witnessed are beyond words and unimaginable. Many families in the United States that have suffered such a painful loss have been advocates for prevention and have publicly told their stories of loss in the hopes they save lives.
As you open your existing pool, use someone else’s pool or even purchase your first kiddie pool, there are safety tips that will help us keep our kids safe this summer and minimize the risk of accidental drowning.
Pool Safely is a national public education campaign that works with parents around the country to reduce child drownings in swimming pools and spas. Pool Safely warns that drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children ages 1 to 4.
They urge parents to:
-Teach children how to swim
-Never leave a child unattended in or near water
-Teach children to stay away from drains
-Learn how to perform CPR for both adults and children
-Make sure pools have proper drain covers
-Install proper alarms and barriers
Similarly, the American Red Cross recommends that we use layers of protection around swimming pools including:
- Barriers to prevent access to water
- Have young children and inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets around water but do not rely on life jackets alone
- Close supervision of children
- Every member of the family learns how to swim
- Have a water emergency plan including calling for help, CPR and know how to help someone
The American Red Cross also recommends:
*Securing your pool with the appropriate barriers
*Designating water watchers
*Staying within arms-reach of children
*Installing anti-entrapment drain covers and safety release systems
*If a child is missing, check the water first
*Secure the pool when not in use and use fences, self-latching gates and door alarms
*Establish and enforce safe behavior rules
*Don’t enter head-first unless pool has a safe diving area
*Stay away from drains that may cause suction
*Swim with a buddy
*Only swim with a water watcher
*Supervise without any distractions such as reading, talking, using cell phone & supervise sober
Some Sobering Facts from the American Red Cross
- As many as 69 % of young children who are found drowned or submerged in swimming pools were not expected to be in or at the pool
- 10 people die each day from unintentional drowning. On average, 2 are under the age of 14.
- Drowning is the leading cause of death in autism for children and adults
- Among those ages 1 to 14, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury related to death behind motor vehicle crashes
- From every child who dies from drowning, another 5 children receive emergency care for nonfatal submersion injuries
- For children under the age of 5, 87% of drowning fatalities happen at home pools or hot tubs
- Those children ages 5 to 17 years old are more likely to drown in natural water such as a pond or lake
- Authorities also remind us that children drown silently and quickly. There is typically no splashing or flailing of arms that we typically see on TV.
Awareness & Safety
If we are aware of the risks and dangers associated with our kids around swimming pools, we can better understand what we can do this summer to reduce those risks and dangers and enjoy our pools to make the best of our summer during this pandemic. We need to talk about it. Make sure all adults and children are aware of the dangers and the safety measures that we can all practice. We need to insist on water watchers like my Mom and Aunt did with the seven of us back in the day. We need to put away our phones and avoid other distractions around the water. All our efforts will be for our kids to have the memories of endless summer days by the pool and good times they will never forget.
In my personal injury law firm, we represent children and their families whose lives were forever changed by tragic avoidable circumstances. The lawyers at Nadeau Harkavy LLC help victims and their families recover compensation for their losses in serious injury and wrongful death cases arising from tragic accidents. If you have any questions about your legal rights relating to wrongful death or other accident, feel free to contact us for a free consult today at 617-674-7640.