Everyone in the pool, except the 'water watcher'

Consumer Reports News: July 02, 2013 05:08 PM

Borrowing from the concept of a designated driver, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is recommending that every swimming event have a dedicated "water watcher" to keep an eye on young swimmers. Doing so could help prevent some of the nearly 400 drownings and 5,100 swimming accidents that occur each year in children under 15. Those incidents peak on July Fourth weekend.

Of the deaths, 73 percent happen at someone's home. Two-thirds of the injuries and fatalities involved children between the ages of one and three. The majority of deaths, 60 percent, occur in in-ground swimming pools, 15 percent in above-ground swimming pools and 9 percent in so-called portable pools.

Because they are inexpensive and easy to set up, portable or inflatable pools are a growing category. But while they resemble small kiddie pools, the newer versions are much bigger and hold a lot more water—up to 2,000 gallons. Too much, our safety experts caution, to make it practical for them to be filled and emptied each time they're used, as warnings on the pools advise. Unlike other above-ground pools, the sides of the inflatable pools are soft and squishy so kids can easy climb over and fall into the water.

No matter what kind of pool or body of water you're splashing around in, the CPSC says to take precautions. "I want families and friends to enjoy their time together in and around the pool during the July Fourth holiday," Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said. "But if past years are any guide, unless we all follow the simple safety steps around the pool, more than two dozen families will suffer a tragic loss during the week of Independence Day." Here are some tips from the CPSC's website, PoolSafely.gov.

  • Never leave a child unattended in a pool or spa, and always watch children closely around all bodies of water.
  • A designated water watcher supervising children should not be reading, texting, using a smart phone or otherwise distracted. Adults can take turns watching swimmers.
  • To avoid entrapments, keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings.
  • Have lifesaving equipment such as life rings, floats or a reaching pole easily accessible.
  • If a child is missing, look for him or her in the pool or spa first.
  • Keep a telephone close by when you or your family are using a pool or spa.

Artemis DiBenedetto

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