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Most Pool Drownings Occur in Backyards


By Mike Gustafson//Correspondent

Summer means a time of July barbeques, beach adventures, and backyard pool parties. The weather gets hot. People flock to backyard pools for relief from the heat. But unfortunately, new data show that an overwhelming majority of infant and child drowning pool fatalities occur in an area supposed to be a safe-haven:

The backyard.

Among drowning fatalities that occur in pools, a whopping 85% of infant and small child fatalities occurred in residential locations. This new data comes from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Which means that your backyard pool can be a dangerous place for kids, if left unsupervised and unfenced.

Many drownings occur when adults aren’t around, and there is no supervision. But sometimes kids just go explore on their own. Kids are curious by nature. They will explore. And if a back door isn’t locked or a pool is open or doesn’t have a locked fence around it, disaster can occur.

I know how quickly kids can disappear. When I was a child, my 4-year-old sister disappeared one day. We grew up in the country and lived on a piece of property with woods. There was a pond about a quarter of a mile’s walk through the woods. You had to walk a good distance to get there, and no one would ever suspect that a small little kid could navigate alone to get there. One second, my sister was playing with me. The next, she was gone.

Quickly, my parents took off in different directions. One ran to the road, the other sprinted through the woods to the pond. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. She was not out by the road. But by the time my dad got to the pond, there she was, standing on the edge of the dock, throwing small stones into the water (which was murky and about 10 feet deep). One small misstep on that wobbly dock, and she would have been gone forever.

My point is this: Just because there’s a pool, pond, river, lake, stream, or spa in your backyard does not mean it’s “safe.” If anything, the increased access makes it even more dangerous. It only takes one blink of an eye for a curious child to go under. Even if you rarely let your children out of your sight, all it takes is 60 seconds.

This is, now more than ever, an important time to teach your kids about water safety. But if you live near a backyard pool – even if it’s not your own – you need to make sure that your kids understand the dangers of it. Many swimmers, like Olympic gold medalist Cullen Jones, have had scary experiences in the water when they were kids. They lived to tell about it.

Others don’t.

Remind your kids never to run near a pool. (Appropriate for all ages. Yes, even you competitive swimmers out there.)

Never swim alone. (Again – important advice, even for competitive swimmers. Sometimes we competitive swimmers think we’re invincible around the water. But we aren’t.)

Never swim during a storm. (Especially around shorelines where powerful undercurrents exist during storms.)

The CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum also explains the need to fence backyard pools. “The lives of countless children can be saved this summer,” Inez says. “Take simple safety steps today—teach all children to swim, put a fence around all pools, and always watch children in and around the water.”

Many competitive swimmers out there have younger siblings who may idolize their older counterparts. They come from families with backyard pools. Just because school is on summer vacation doesn’t mean you can’t educate your own brother, sister, nephew, niece, son, daughter, or grandchild about water safety.

Don’t wait until it’s too late.

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