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FOR RELEASE: June 6, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn

Treading Safe Waters

For many families, visits to the community pool, lake, water park or beach are essential rituals of the summer experience. But smooth waters can turn to rough ones when basic water safety is ignored. The majority of all drownings occur between May and August.

"Toddlers and children love to play in water. They're so attracted to water, they often are not aware of the dangers," said Martha Collar, coordinator, Oklahoma SAFE KIDS Coalition, a program of the Oklahoma State Department of Health. "Children can drown in as little as one inch of water in a matter of seconds and it can happen in the time it takes a parent or caregiver to answer the phone."

Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 14 and under with children under age 5 at the highest risk. Many drownings and near-drownings occur when children are left unattended by a pool or in the bathtub.

Adults and children over age 13 should learn infant and child cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), in the event of a near-drowning. In addition, SAFE KIDS offers the following safety tips to prevent drownings:

Water Safety at the Swimming Pool

A pool is 14 times more likely than a motor vehicle to be involved in the unintentional death of children ages 4 and under. Sixty percent of drownings occur in residential pools.

  • Never leave your child alone in or near the pool.
  • Install four-sided fencing, at least five-feet high, equipped with self-closing and self-latching gates. The fence should completely surround the pool or spa and prevent direct access from the house and yard. The house should not be one of the four sides.
  • Teach children how to swim. Enroll children in swimming lessons taught by qualified instructors when your child is ready, usually after age 3, but keep in mind that lessons don't make your child "drown-proof."
  • Teach children to not run, push others under water, jump on others, dive in shallow water or swim during lightning storms or other bad weather.
  • Keep a telephone, emergency phone numbers and rescue equipment poolside.
  • Place a tamper-proof cover over the pool when it is not in use.
  • Remove steps to above-ground pools and empty inflatable pools when not in use.

Water Safety for Natural Bodies of Water

The majority of drownings among older children occur in open bodies of water. These drownings occur when an older child overestimates his or her swimming ability or when he or she is swimming in an unsupervised area.

  • Always supervise your child while at the beach, lake, or other natural bodies of water.
  • Make sure your child wears a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD) when on a boat and in or near natural bodies of water. Air-filled "swimming aids" are not considered safety devices and are not a substitute for PFDs.

Diving Safety

Diving is one of the most hazardous water activities. Most diving-related injuries occur in pools with five feet of water or less.

  • Do not let children dive into water unless an adult is present and knows that the depth of the water is greater than 10 feet.
  • Never allow children to dive into above-ground pools.
  • Teach your children to dive with their hands in front of their face and to swim toward the surface immediately upon entering the water to avoid hitting the bottom or sides of the pool.
  • Teach them to dive only from the end of the diving board; never let them dive from rooftops, balconies, ledges or fences.
  • Teach them to keep their dives simple.
  • Make sure your diving board is in good condition before allowing children to use it.

Water Safety in the Home

Even water-filled buckets, bathtubs, hot tubs, sinks and toilets can be potential drowning hazards. Children under age 1 most frequently drown in bathtubs, buckets and toilets.

  • Never leave children unsupervised in and around the home, particularly in the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Keep toilet lids down and use safety locks.
  • Empty all buckets and containers immediately after use and store out of reach of children.
  • Drain all water from sinks and bathtubs immediately after use.


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