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3 out of 4 Child Drowning Cases Have This Startling Fact in Common

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3 out of 4 Child Drowning Cases Have This Startling Fact in Common

Of all of the many different statistics that have been burned into my memory over the 20 years I have been passionate about drowning prevention, there is one that stands out above the rest. And for some reason, it is not the statistic you hear most often. It isn’t that drowning is the number one accidental killer of children under five or that in 69% of fatal drowning incidents one or both parents was responsible for supervision. Those are both jarring figures, and those are the statistics you most often see used as evidence that pool safety and multiple layers of protection are vitally important. But the statistic that most profoundly affects me is this:

In 77% of fatal drowning incidents, the child was last seen less than five minutes before being discovered in the pool.

Five. Minutes.

That is the statistic that gives me chills.

Why? Because that statistic isn’t just a number; it paints the picture. That statistic, combined with other data we have, gives you a window into how quickly and easily this tragedy can occur to anyone.

Here is what I mean: like I said, in more than three out of four fatal drowning incidents, the child was seen less than five minutes before the unthinkable happened. In most of those cases, the child was last seen in the house, nowhere near the pool. And in many of those cases, the child was last seen asleep in the bedroom. So, here is the scenario: you check on your toddler who is fast asleep in his room. Safe and sound. You leave, get a cup of water, maybe clean a dish or two, then go back to check on him again just FOUR MINUTES later — barely any time has passed at all. Now, he’s not in his room. You look quickly around the house before running out to the backyard and the pool. And that is where you find him. But it is already too late.

The reason that is scary is because it can happen to anyone at any time. Even the best, most attentive parent in the world cannot prevent a scenario like that on her own. There is no substitute for parent supervision, but when you know that in the vast majority of cases, everything happened in less than five minutes, when the child was last seen safely inside the house, it is clear that supervision just isn’t enough.

This is why we invented the concept of layers of protection for pool safety over 25 years ago. No matter how hard we try, there are going to be brief moments when we are not looking directly at our children. Someone knocks on the door, the phone rings, your older child runs inside with a bloody nose from a flying baseball — life happens. Implementing multiple layers of protection is the best way to make sure that these distractions don’t turn into tragedy.

Life Saver recommends the six layers of protection prescribed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission to supplement parent supervision. They are:

  1. High locks on all doors and windows leading to the pool.
  2. Alarms on the doors and windows that access the pool.
  3. A pool safety fence isolating the pool from the home. This fence should be at least 4 foot tall with a self-closing, self latching gate.
  4. An alarm in the pool and an alarm like Safety Turtle that is worn on the child.
  5. Swimming lessons as early as you and your pediatrician feel comfortable. Infant swim instructors start training babies to roll over and float earlier than you might think.
  6. CPR training for you and your family. Administering CPR while paramedics are on the way can literally mean the difference between life and death.

The idea is to come as close to a fail-safe system as possible. You cannot drown-proof a child, but every layer of protection that you add significantly reduces the chance of a child drowning incident– the more, the better. Of those steps, pool safety fencing is arguably the most effective at preventing fatal drowning incidents; it is the only one that physically prevents access to the pool, making your pool safer for your children and your neighbors’.

Most children had been seen just five minutes prior. Layers of protection give you the most important thing in the world in this scenario: time. You wouldn’t own a car without seat belts. Don’t own a pool without protecting it.




 

 

 

By |2016-11-07T15:40:20+00:00March 24th, 2014|Blog, Child Safety Guide|8 Comments

About the Author:

Eric Lupton is the President of Life Saver Systems, Inc. He has been featured as an expert in two New York Times Best Sellers, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and is highly sought after and interviewed by the media as an expert on pool safety. Eric lives with cerebral palsy, requiring him to use a power wheelchair. He's a native of Boynton Beach, FL and loves Doctor Who, TED Talks, milk, and potatoes.

8 Comments

  1. Karolee Smallwood August 30, 2014 at 6:42 am - Reply

    YOU ARE SO RIGHT WE JUST HAD THIS HAPPEN TO OUR FAIMLY THIS WEEK WHILE ON OUR VACTION AND MY TWO YEAR OLD GRANDAUGHTER GOT INTO THE POOL WITHOUT HER WATER WINGS WHEN JUST LESS THAN A MIN. AND A HALF AGO SHE HAD BEEN ON THE SECONDTHE LEVEL OF THE HOUSE CALLING US IN TO EAT LUNCH, I GOT OUT AND WENT TO GATHER UP TOWELS TO GIVE OUT TO THE OTHER GRAND KIDS MY BACK TO THE POOL WHEN ONE OF THE SHOUTED HER NAME . I TURNED TO THE STEPS THINKING SHE HAD FALLEN DOWN THEM, NOT SEEING OR HEARING HER I SHOUT WHERE AND AS HE SAYS WATER I SAW HER WITH FEAR IN HER LITTLE EYES TRYING TO KEEP HEAD ABOVE THE WATER,HER COUSIN TRIED TO REACH OUT AND GRAB HER AS I DROPPED ALL THE TOWELS AND POOL TOYS AND RUSHED OVER, BUT HER TEN YEAR OLD BROTHER WAS THE HERO WHO FLEW PASS ME JUMPED RIGHT IN SWIM QUICKLY OVER TO HER AND BROUGHT HER OVER TO THE SIDE OF THE POOL TO ME. WE WERE SO BLESSED .

    • John Jennette October 25, 2014 at 6:06 am - Reply

      The comment by Ms Smallwood points out a danger to small children that’s not frequently recognized. Please, please, please…NEVER let a child use, especially one that can not swim well ,use water wings,floaties or anything else that floats them in the water .The younger children think they can swim and the adults seem to think so too. I have seen little ones who have been allowed to use floaties etc run and jump into the deep end of a pool thinking they can swim with out the floating device. Fortunately an alert adult was nearby to save the child. Use of these child floatie devices should be outlawed because they lull children into a false sense of safety. The child doesn’t realize they can not swim and adults have a false sense of security about the child’s safety. All water is dangerous and safety rules should ALWAYS be followed. I had a friend whose 12 yr old daughter drowned in about 3 inches of water in the bathtub. Who would have thought that could occur?

    • Sith Lord Darth Kenyon October 29, 2014 at 8:08 pm - Reply

      I am glad you got lucky. Don’t depend on God to make up for your irresponsibility. He gave you free will for a reason. Take care of your children.

  2. Me September 20, 2014 at 6:19 am - Reply

    Good safety suggestions.

    I am a working lifeguard, and I’d also add one more: Know what drowning actually looks like. Movies show frantic thrashing, calling for help, and swimming while actors are “drowning”. Drowning happens FAST (the five-minute window mentioned in this piece is actually enough time for someone to drown several times over), and is generally nearly silent. Kids might look like they’re just bobbing and not really struggling. Parents need some basic water safety, such as throwing/reaching assists.

  3. al miller October 13, 2014 at 6:52 am - Reply

    All children should learn to float on their backs as soon as possible. They learn very quickly to float and then to do the backstroke. I have taught several kids in minutes to do it.

  4. Ronnie Gethsetter April 29, 2015 at 8:28 am - Reply

    I live in a gated community in Central California and the pool gate is NEVER locked. Management
    does not seem concerned when I questioned such a dangerous situation ! What can be done ?

  5. Yessika July 20, 2015 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    I agree with banning floaties, wings etc. Children should be taught how to properly swim before being allowed in the pool with out close close supervision! Supervision by an adult should always happen but with kids that can’t swim floaties shouldn’t be the babysitter !!!!

  6. Andy August 12, 2015 at 2:15 pm - Reply

    This writer knows what he is talking about. As a lifeguard, I have seen 15 year old kids (that could not swim) jump into a 16 ft deep pool and nearly drown. They just followed their friends right in. I’ve seen a kid drown in a pool (with three lifeguards on it) in broad daylight. Apparently the lifeguards did not notice the unconscious child until the other children pointed him out. He had fanted, slipped under the water, and no one noticed. There is no such thing as being ‘too careful’ around swimming pools. Few things are as deadly or, can kill as fast as water.

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