A few years back, while reading ‘Freakonomics’, I learnt that swimming pools are more dangerous than guns, when it comes to children. In the context of ‘United States of America’, where one can buy a gun as simply as one can buy a loaf of bread in India, and no dearth of publicly accessible pools, it was probably a great find. Something which every parent must watch-out for. In India, we can not go out and buy a gun from the corner store but that still doesn’t take anything away from the dangers which a swimming pool exposes us to, especially kids.
I have been wanting to share this for a while but better late than never. So yesterday when I got an email from Laura of Asylum, on whether I would be interested in getting some safety tips around this, I thought that it is time to write a small post on it.
First, a few words about my inspiration of this post viz. Steven Levit. When I read the book, I tremendously like the pace of the book, very lucidly written and more of actual events, incidents, a lot of data and very little of words-of-wisdom (or Gyan, as we call it here).
For this particular case, here are some figures for you to ponder.
“In 1997 alone (the last year for which data are available), 742 children under the age of 10 drowned in the United States last year alone. Approximately 550 of those drownings — about 75 percent of the total — occurred in residential swimming pools. According to the most recent statistics, there are about six million residential pools, meaning that one young child drowns annually for every 11,000 pools.
About 175 children under the age of 10 died in 1998 as a result of guns. About two-thirds of those deaths were homicides. There are an estimated 200 million guns in the United States. Doing the math, there is roughly one child killed by guns for every one million guns.”
And here is the link of complete story – http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2001/07/27/levittpoolsvsguns/
Incase you want to buy this book, and read it in more detail then please click on this cover. It is a very interesting read.
Now getting back to the dangers of the pool. I live close to Delhi, India and we have a swimming pool in our apartment (or Condo as they say it in US) and about 4 years back, there was an unfortunate incident of a young buy losing his life. With-in my family, one of my cousins has lost her son in the village pond (which probably the closest thing to a pool). So it is just not plain-figure-speak but something which has happened (and continue to happen) in our lives. Though it is extremely sad, but probably if you pause for a moment and look-back, may be there was someone you know has been hit by this ‘drowning danger’.
With winters withering pretty quickly, all the pools are now going to get back in action and no better time to remind ourselves of some of the safety-tips, guidelines and things to watch out for. This is coming from Sue Mackie, Executive Director of United States Swim School Association.
Very appropriately title as ‘Don’t Forget to Pack Water Safety Skills For Spring Break’, here is the short and very effective things which one must do. I have not changed the language and Sue is writing from the perspective of ‘Spring Break’, but this applies to all, whether your neighbour hood pool or the one you find in your hotel.
Spring Break Water Safety Tips
• Create a verbal cue that must be given by an adult before children can enter the pool.
• Select a parent to be the designated “water watcher”. This adult should not be drinking alcohol while children are in or near water.
• Always go with children to the hotel pool. Do not let them swim unsupervised. Just because you are on vacation does not mean you are on vacation from being a responsible parent. Don’t allow children to go to the kiddie pool without adult supervision. Lounging in the adult pool while your kids are swimming alone is an accident waiting to happen.
• Do not use water wings or pool floats as a substitution for supervision if your child is not a strong swimmer.
• Take time to familiarize your children with the pool they will be swimming in, i.e. where the shallow and deep ends are, where stairs to get in and out are located, where they can and cannot swim.
• If visiting a beach destination, do not rely on lifeguards to constantly monitor your children. You cannot be sure how experienced a lifeguard is and should never assume. It might take a new guard time to notice an unsafe situation and you need to be ready to react first if your child needs help.
• Before allowing children to wade into the ocean, explain to them that they need to constantly be watching for waves that could knock them over and other potential dangers. Parents should constantly be on the lookout as well.
• If cousins and relatives are swimming together, gather the adults of your extended family and create an agreed upon set of pool rules before the kids are allowed into the water. It is also important for the adults of the group to meet and discuss each child’s skill level prior to allowing the kids into the water so everyone has the same expectations of what is normal or an emergency.
• If you have a pool at home be sure to take precautions before traveling. Secure fences, gates, door locks and covers so an accident does not occur while you are away.
Hopefully, it makes us all a bit more safer.
I didn’t want to finish this story on a sad note, but for the greater good , let me share more on what Levit writes.
“As a father who has lost a son, I know first-hand the unbearable pain that comes with a child’s death. Amidst my grief, I am able to take some small solace in the fact that everything possible was done to fight the disease that took my son’s life. If my son had died in a backyard pool due to my own negligence, I would not even have that to cling to. Parents who have lost children would do anything to get their babies back. Safeguard your pool so you don’t become one of us.”
So folks, be extra careful when you have children around a swimming pool or an water-body and do read Sue’s list of tips. Hope this post is useful to you and do make the most of Spring-Break.