Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Drowning prevention

One point that struck me when I first read Freakonomics was the claim that a swimming pool was more likely to kill a child than a gun in the home. It felt counter-intuitive. Then, a close friend lost her toddler as a result of drowning.

This summer, there's been a lot of focus on the tragedies of gun violence, whether in Toronto or Colorado. Those stories are heart-breaking, and I don't have the answers to the problems.

I also noticed, though, that while the violent deaths are shown on the news in an endless loop, I've been seeing much smaller reports of drowning deaths this hot summer.

Many of the victims of the shootings were true heroes, and they should be honored. I'm also hoping, though, that a bit of time can be taken from the coverage of the crimes and debates to bring some attention to drowning prevention. How many parents will be too paranoid to allow their kids to see a movie or fear that the streets are getting too violent, while failing to take basic precautions to prevent something that is statistically more likely to kill their kids?

I thought this report was good, especially the video footage of a near-drowning:

Many people have no idea what a non-swimmer drowning looks and sounds like. They don't realize that what you see and hear is....nothing. There's no screaming or splashing, because they are under water. The only way to effectively supervise a child 5 or under in the water is to get in the water yourself, keep your eyes on your kids at all times, and always be within arms' reach. Period. You can't supervise from a pool chair, or think that there are enough people around that someone would notice a problem, or rely on a floatie ring.

Parents also need to view pools, ponds and other bodies of water in the same way that they would view a loaded gun when it comes to children. There needs to be a sturdy, self-closing gate between the house and the pool. During a backyard event, someone needs to be watching the pool and watching the young kids, because a child can fall in without anyone noticing. Children need constant vigilance around bodies of water, if they are visiting a cottage or camp.

People don't recognize the dangers of boating, especially with weak or non-swimmers. Life jackets need to be worn, since they won't do any good lying on the floor of the boat.

Parents should learn basic lifesaving techniques. If a weak swimmer tries to just jump in and rescue a non-swimmer, it's likely that they will both drown since the instinct of the non-swimmer is to grab onto the rescuer and try to climb up.

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