Most Viewed Stories
‘Water' you waiting for: Learn how to prevent drowning
From the river for a cool dip on a hot day to the bath tub for more practical matters, water is all around us.
It can also be a hazard for young children. Ryan Butcher, injury prevention coordinator for the Yuma County Health Department and a member of the county's child fatality review team, says drowning is the leading cause of death nationwide for children between the ages of 1 and 4 – an age range where many have not yet learned to swim, he says. In Yuma, one young child drowned in 2012, and two died this way in 2011.
Butcher says “active” supervision is key when it comes to kids and water, and the designated water-watcher should be clear who he or she is. Everybody seems to think somebody else is watching the kids, and that's how it turns out that nobody is, despite plenty of adults being nearby.
“Don't leave the children in the pool or near the water alone for a second,” he says.
Mike Erfert of the Yuma Fire Department suggests Adult supervision, Barrier fencing, and CPR as the “ABCs” of drowning prevention:
– Adult supervision – and not just adult supervision, “but responsible, consistent, even relentless adult supervision,” he says. The designated water-watcher shouldn't leave the area for any reason without finding a good replacement, and if none can be found, then it's time for everybody to get out of the water.
– Barrier fencing around pools should be at least 4 feet high, with no gaps or spaces big enough for a small child to squeeze through. Gates should be self-closing and self-latching. Remember that kids are curious and resourceful, so keep patio furniture or other items that can be used to climb over the fence away, and keep toys out of the pool so little ones aren't drawn to the water.
– CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation. C can also stand for classes, such as swim classes.
Both Butcher and Erfert stressed the difference between toys – including inflatable water wings, ride-on floaties and pool noodles – and genuine personal flotation devices when playing in the pool, river or lake. Proper life jackets or vests will be marked as being U.S. Coast Guard-approved and can be relied upon as a safety device. Toys are just for fun.
Erfert says that when out boating, kids shouldn't take off their PFDs unless they aren't near the water. Especially in murky water, unstable sand bars and hard-to-see drop-offs can surprise waders, dumping them into the current or a deep hole.
“You cannot waterproof a child but you may make them more drowning resistant,” Erfert says.
The common tip, whether around the pool, the tub, or open water, is to always be alert. That holds true for all ages.
“Adults and children should also use the ‘Buddy System.' You should be with someone who is paying attention,” Erfert says. “Never, regardless of your age, be swimming alone. A medical emergency that leaves a person unconscious or incapacitated might be serious on dry land, but will often be fatal in the water.”
Learn water safety
The Yuma Fire Department is available to provide classes on water safety and other types of injury prevention for children and adults. For more information on water safety or if you would like to schedule a class for your group or organization, contact Mike Erfert at 373-4855.
Some drowning prevention tips
Actively supervise your children around water at all times, even if they know how to swim.
Appoint a designated “water watcher,” taking turns with other adults.
Learn infant and child CPR and keep a phone nearby in case of an emergency.
Enroll your child in swimming lessons.
Make sure your pool has four-sided fencing and a self-closing, self-latching gate. In addition, hot tubs should be covered and locked when not in use.
Install a door alarm, a window alarm or both to alert you if a child wanders into the pool area unsupervised.
Warn your children about the dangers of drain entanglement and entrapment and teach them to never play or swim near drains or suction outlets.
Teach children that swimming in open water is not the same as swimming in a pool: they need to be aware of uneven surfaces, river currents, ocean undertow and changing weather. Teach children not to dive into oceans, lakes or rivers because you never know how deep the water is or what might be hidden under the surface of the water.
Never leave your child alone or in the care of older children during bath time.
Empty all buckets, containers and wading pools immediately after use. Store them upside-down and out of children's reach. Once bath time is over, immediately drain the tub. Keep toilet lids closed and use toilet seat locks.