Memorial Day Weekend in the United States heralds in the summer season. This three-day holiday weekend kicks off warm temperatures, family outings, BBQs, and of course, swimming and water recreation.
Memorial Day Weekend also brings an increased risk of child drownings, reports this article.
Pool, lake, and beach parties are favorite ways to celebrate, but parents must remember to stay alert and vigilant while children are in and around water.
For children between the ages of one and four, drowning is the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States (just behind auto accidents). Even when not fatal, water-related accidents cause significant, life-changing injuries from the lack of oxygen to the brain, including permanent brain injury and loss of basic functioning.
There are thousands of tragic stories about children, teens and adults drowning in swimming pools, rivers, lakes and oceans. Fortunately, most of these can be prevented by doing just three things.
One: Wear a life jacket (or PFD–personal flotation device) in open water. In late May, water temperatures in lakes and rivers can be deceptively cold despite the warm sun. Rivers and lakes this time of year can be filled with swiftly moving debris which can trap unsuspecting swimmers and drag them under the water.
Additionally, there may be state laws and local ordinances requiring the wearing of PFDs. Click here for an example of the Kids Don’t Float campaign.
The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance in 2008 that reads, “It is unlawful for any parent to permit his or her child under the age of thirteen (13) in his or her care to access any public waters unless said child is wearing a life preserver.” Violation of the ordinance is punishable by a fine of $500 and/or six months of jail.
Two: Parents, WATCH YOUR CHILDREN! Do not assume someone else is going to watch your child at a backyard birthday pool party, or that the lifeguard will see your child in distress in a crowded swimming pool or beach front. It is simply YOUR job to watch your child. Taking classes in CPR and first aid is highly recommended.
Three: Save the alcohol for another time. Leave the beer at home when boating, rafting or swimming. Here are some sobering (pun intended) statistics:
- In 2012, the US Coast Guard counted 4515 accidents that involved 651 deaths, 3000 injuries and approximately $38 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.
- Almost seventy-one (71) percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, almost eighty-five (85) percent were not reported as wearing a life jacket.
- Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; it was listed as the leading factor in 17% of deaths.
- Twenty-four children under age thirteen lost their lives while boating in 2012. Ten children or approximately forty-two (42) percent of the children who died in 2012 died from drowning. Two children or twenty (20) percent of those who drowned were wearing a life jacket as required by state and federal law.
Four (Bonus Tip): Educate yourself about water safety. Just about every country has free, educational resources for water safety. The Red Cross organizations in the US, Canada and Australia, and the International Red Cross are a wealth of information.
The NRPA (National Recreation and Park Association) recognizes that May is National Water Safety Month and offers these water safety tips.
Are there ordinances or laws about public water safety where you live? Has your community ever experienced a tragic drowning?
Please be safe as the summer swimming season begins.