August 9 2002

Parks and Recreation Services Safety Tips For Preventing Childhood Drowning

Oceanside enjoys a moderate, coastal climate, where the warmth of the sun is a regular occurrence, and participation in water activities occurs year-round. However, as summer heats up there is an increased interest and excitement in the water by everyone including young children.

According to statistics, drowing is the leading cause of the accidental of toddlers in California. Near-drowing accidents are also tragic, often causing permanent brain damage. Not only do these tragedies happen in pools, but also in bathtubs, toilets, and buckets of water - young children have been know to drown in just a few inches of water.

Drowings and near-drownings are preventable! Everyone involved with young children, and any property owner with a pool or spa, should be aware of how to prevent this tragedy.

Property owners should always maintain an appropriate safety barrier, preferably a non-climbable fence or wall, around the pool or spa area. The barrier should include gates which are self-closing with self-latching mechanisms that are out of the reach of children. The pool/spa should have a safety barrier, even if it is covered. Alarms can be installed on pool covers, and on windows and doors leading to a pool area, for added security.

Supervision of children is of primary importance. The following recommendations can prevent unneeded tragedy: 1) Never leave your child, or a child in your care, unattended in or near a swimming pool, hot tub, or spa. Always have an adult, who is a skilled swimmer, designated to supervise at all times; 2) Keep toys, tricycles, and other children’s play things away from the pool area; 3) Do not rely on flotation devices in the pool for protection from drowning; 4) Do not allow barriers such as fences to give you a false sense of security - there is no substitute for supervision; 5) Do not consider your children drown-proof because they have had swimming lessons; 6) Always take your children to open water areas such as beaches and lakes where trained lifeguard supervision is on site.

Children must also be supervised when bathing, or while playing in a shallow backyard pool. Sadly, many tragedies occur when a caretaker leaves a child alone in the bathtub or pool for “just a few seconds” to answer the telephone. It is never a good idea to leave a small child in the care of another young sibling.

Buckets and toilets can pose equally hazardous threats. A young toddler is inquisitive by nature and can be drawn to any body of water, including the toilet bowl or a bucket of water. Due to the weight distribution of a toddler’s head and body, a young child who reaches into a toilet and falls in head first may not have the strength to right him/her self and escape. Unfortunately, drowning can result. Safety latches for toilet seats are recommended. Always empty any bucket or similar object when not in use.

Knowledge of emergency procedures is critical. Please keep a cordless phone near the pool at all times, with emergency numbers clearly posted. Learn CPR techniques - administering prompt lifesaving techniques can mean the difference between life and death. In case of an accident, call 911 for help immediately.

Remember, it only takes a few seconds for a child to drown.

For further information on pool safety, and for swimming lesson schedules in Oceanside, please contact the Parks and Recreation Services Administration office at (760) 435-5041, The Brooks Street Swim Center at 435-5225, or the Marshall Street Swim Center at 435-5535.

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