The unofficial start of summer is only days away (finally!). We hate to put a damper on things, but here are some cold, hard facts: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 Americans drown every day, and 20 percent of those are children. Children under the age of five have the highest drowning rates.
The statistics are, frankly, scary, so we called up Executive Director of United States Swim School Association Sue Mackie to get expert tips on how you can keep children safe in the water this summer.
Designate a Water Watcher
Drowning can happen quickly and quietly, so constant supervision is key. Mackie suggests designating a water watcher or water watchers, depending on how many children are around and how experienced they are in the water. If there are several adults around, you can try to have people take 15-minute shifts. And lay off the booze. “You should not be drinking if you are the person who is supposed to be the person watching those kids,” Mackie said. Wear this badge with pride.
Teach ‘Em Young
You can sign your child up for swim classes at six months old. No, that’s not overzealous. “That gets them acclimated to the water,” Mackie said. “At that 6 month age, it prepares the child and family for keeping their kid safe around the water.” Find classes near you at usswimschools.org.
Sport a Life Jacket
Whether you’re on a boat or swimming in the ocean, Mackie says it’s important to put children in a lifejacket instead of relying on something like swimmies or noodles. Get one that is Coast Guard approved.
Layers of Protection
On Long Island, we love to pack up our bags and head to the beach, but sometimes we just want to lounge next to our backyard pool. CDC reports most child drownings actually occur in pools. “You need to have your pool fenced with a self-latching gate,” Mackie said. This isn’t a suggestion; it’s the law. Contact your local municipality for additional code and zoning requirements, and consider investing in a pool alarm in case a kid beats the system.
Have a safe and fun summer!