By Eric Herman
There is no question that watershaping industry is on fire right now. Over the past two-plus months, every single builder I’ve talked to, without exception, has said that they are busier than they’ve ever been with a constant stream of homeowners looking to either install a new pool or upgrade an existing one. I’ve heard the same thing from pool and spa retailers and pond builders.
As I previously described in this space, the current surge in activity is a wonderful silver lining during these otherwise confounding times. And while I’m the last one who would ever want to dampen that enthusiasm, there’s a huge caveat we should all take into account.
I’m talking about child safety and drowning prevention. I realize this is a decidedly unpleasant topic and one that has saddled the pool industry with the grim reality that for children ages one to four, drowning is the leading cause of death in the U.S. I’ve written about this issue countless times in the past and have always advocated a proactive approach where industry professionals work to empower consumers with useful information they can use to keep their children safe.
I’ve always thought ignoring the issue is no solution, and there’s certainly no upside to stoking fear. It’s a situation where knowledge and practical solutions are the keys to overcoming the perception that pools are dangerous and especially so when it comes to preventing these horrific accidents.
I bring this up now because there are early indications that drowning may be increasing as more and more families spend most or all of their time at home. For example, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg is reporting a 100% increase in drowning incidents from March to May 2020 compared to the same time period in both 2018 and 2019.
Back on June 3, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released a report urging caution as more families spend their summer poolside while the COVID-19 crisis continues. “Water safety vigilance remains as important as ever, especially in light of ongoing public health concerns and community restrictions related to COVID-19,” says CPSC Acting Chairman Robert Adler. “Our latest report confirms that most child drownings take place at home during the summer months. This year, with more families spending time at home, the delayed opening of many public pools, and a pause on many traditional group swimming lessons, I urge everyone to take critical safety steps to reverse the upward trend in fatal child drowning.”
Drowning Prevention Resources
As noted in the adjoining text, there are numerous safety organizations with useful information about drowning prevention measures. Here are a few examples:
q The National Drowning Prevention Alliance: click here.
q The American Red Cross: click here.
q] The Child Safety Network: click here.
q Safe Kids Word Wide: click here.
q Step Into Swim: click here.
q The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission: click here.
q American Academy of Pediatrics: click here
q USA Swimming Foundation: click here.
q YMCA of the USA: click here.
q U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: click here.
It’s easy to imagine that with more parents working at home, and families more likely to stay at home, lapses in supervision are going to happen. As we know, it takes only a few short minutes for submersion to cause permanent brain damage or death. This is why I’m urging everyone in the industry during this time of frenzied activity to renew efforts to inform homeowners of not only the risk, but also the measures that can dramatically reduce those risks. It’s a litany that should be familiar to industry professionals, and of course safety advocates.
According to the CPSC:
q Never leave a child unattended in or near water, and always designate an adult Water Watcher. This person should not be reading, texting, using a smartphone or be otherwise distracted. In addition to pools and spas, this warning includes bathtubs, buckets, decorative ponds, and fountains.
q Learn how to swim and teach your child how to swim. Data compiled by organizations such as Step Into Swim indicates that children who have been taught water safety and swimming are as much as 88% less likely to suffer a drowning incident compared to those who haven’t. Swimming lessons don’t drown-proof children, but they clearly and dramatically reduce the risk.
q Install layers of protection, including a four-sided fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate.
q Learn how to perform CPR on children and adults. Many communities offer online CPR training.
q Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments.
q Ensure any pool and spa you use has drain covers that comply with federal safety standards and if you do not know, ask your pool service provider about safer drain covers. To this list I would add using safety covers and Coast Guard-approved life jackets (Not water wings!);
These are mostly simple measures that can be easily communicated to homeowners with children. There are numerous organizations and websites where you can find these kinds of basic safety guidelines. (See Sidebar) I encourage industry professionals of all stripes to make this information available to their customers.
Ultimately, this is not about fear, but simple commonsense. You never know when and where a small dose of caution and useful information will spell the difference between disaster and the profound pleasures of a life aquatic.