Swimming safety

Northwest Fire District paramedic Sean Dibbern holds the head of firefighter T.J. Giron as YMCA lifeguard Marnie Green assists during a training exercise at the Northwest YMCA.

Randy Metcalf/Desert Times

While the summer months are commonly thought of as a time for poolside fun, local fire officials want to remind the public of the dangers that arise as people take to the water to keep cool.

According to a 2013 study by the USA Swimming Foundation, drowning was the leading cause of unintentional deaths among children one to four years old, and the second-leading cause of death for children five to 14 years old.

The fact that a young demographic most commonly falls victim to drowning emphasizes the importance for parents to take a proactive approach when allowing their children near a pool or other body of water as swim season arrives.

Some simple yet effective safety precautions fall under what are known as the ABC’s of the life safety code.

A: Adult Supervision

“This means eye-to-eye contact, and having a designated water watcher, whether that’s in a pool, bathtub, or any other body of water,” said Drexel Heights Public Education/Information Manager and Fire Marshal Tracy Koslowski. “That person’s role is strictly to watch the kids in the water. No texting, no Facebook.”

Even in settings where multiple adults are present, such as at a family gathering, a designated person should be selected.

“Sometimes we have this false sense of security that because there are so many people around it is safer, when actually that can lead to nobody paying attention to what’s going on in the water,” said Koslowski.

Golder Ranch Fire District Chief Randy Karrer adds that supervision can and should also apply to adults, particularly if the individual has a mental deficiency or medical history that could make him or her susceptible to losing consciousness or functionality.

B: Barriers

While varying rules apply to each jurisdiction, the general standard is that a pool must have a self-latching gate that is at least four feet tall, and with no more than four inches between the bottom of the gate and the ground.

“It’s important not only to create a solid barrier, but to use common sense in regards to that barrier,” said Karrer. “Don’t leave things out that will allow someone to jump over the fence and gain access to the pool area.”

Additional precautions can include alarms that alert parents when a child has gone out a back door.

Pool covers can be beneficial for preventing drownings if they are sturdy, but some covers provide a false sense of security for people as well as animals.

“Covers that just float on top of the water can make someone think it’s a barrier, when in fact they can go right through it,” said Karrer. “If that happens, now you have a barrier over your head preventing you from getting out.”

While pools are commonly thought to be the most common drowning threat, bathtubs, fountains, toilets or even buckets can prove dangerous to children when left without a barrier or supervision.

Bathroom doors should remain closed to deny access to bathtubs and toilet. During monsoon season, buckets should not be left in the yard.

“Kids tend to be fascinated by water, and that applies to any body of water, and that can be very dangerous,” said Karrer. “It’s incumbent upon all of us to be aware of situations where water can pose a threat.”

C: Classes

Swim classes and a certification in CPR can prove to be another preventative measure. Swimming classes should be started at a young age, and are also beneficial as refresher courses for adults. Adults should also be certified in CPR in the case of a water-related incident.

If a child or someone is found unresponsive in a body of water, Koslowski said the first step is to call or have someone else call 911, then to pull the child from the water.

“Make sure the child’s airway is open. If the person is unconscious, begin CPR with rescue breaths at a rate of two breaths for every 30 chest compressions.”

In the case the person vomits, the rescuer should turn the person on their side to prevent asphyxiation.

To date, there have only been two water-related incidents in Pima County this year.

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