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Keep kids safe around pools

Most children who drown in swimming pools were last seen in the home, had been missing from sight for less than five minutes, and were in the care of one or both parents at the time of the drowning.

“When you move into a house, and it has a pool, you have to take responsibility,” said Kim Burgess, Drowning Prevention Coordinator for Broward County. “Parents will put their child in a car seat, wear a seat belt, and lock up their loaded guns, but they won’t get serious about pool safety.”

Sad statistics

Most drownings occur in residential pools while children are unattended.

For every child who drowns, four others are hospitalized for near-drowning, and as many as three suffer brain damage.

Fifteen percent of children admitted for near-drowning die in the hospital.

For several years, Miami-Dade and Broward have ranked in the top five counties in Florida for the most accidental drownings. In 2009, there were 47 accidental drownings in Miami-Dade and 45 in Broward, according to the counties’ medical examiners.

The Sunshine State leads the nation in drowning deaths of kids ages 1 to 4, according to the Florida Department of Health.

The saddest part of that statistic is that it is preventable, said Anthoni Llau, an injury epidemiologist with the Miami-Dade County Health Department.

“The biggest non-fear parents have is, ‘What could possibly happen in the safety of our home?”’ said Matthew Berman, executive director of Swim Central, which tracks swimming lessons in Broward. “People need to realize that an unguarded pool plus nonsupervision is the equivalent of a loaded weapon in their own home.”

Most young children drown by falling in an unattended swimming pool, while a parent is distracted by a phone call or household duties.

“Parents think they will hear a scream if their child falls in the pool, but the opposite is true,” Llau said. “Drowning is the silent killer. Water fills their air passages and they can’t make a sound.”

Pool safety tips

Always watch little ones around water. Never leave them alone, even for a moment.

Install a fence at least four feet high around the pool. The fence should separate the pool from the house and play area of the yard.

Use gates that self-close and self-latch, with latches higher than your children’s reach.

Even with pool fencing, your second line of defense should be door locks and alarms.

A lock that is located high on the door will make it difficult for a child to get out. A pool alarm will notify you if someone has gotten into your pool, even neighborhood kids.

Keep rescue equipment (such as a shepherd’s hook or life preserver) and a telephone by the pool. Call 911 immediately in an emergency.

Remove all toys from the pool after use so children aren’t tempted to reach for them.

If you can’t find your child and you have a pool, check there first.

Don’t rely on buckles to lock hot tub covers. Some children have unbuckled them, crawled in and drowned under the cover.

SOURCE: The American Academy of Pediatrics and The Home Safety Guru

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