Pool safety 101: Tips for preventing drownings

Pool safety 101

Most children who drown in swimming pools were last seen in the home, had been missing from sight for less than five minutes, and were in the care of one or both parents at the time of the drowning.

The sad statistics

Most drownings occur in residential pools while children are unattended.

For every child who drowns, four others are hospitalized for near-drowning, and as many as three suffer brain damage.

Fifteen percent of children admitted for near-drowning die in the hospital.

The saddest part of that statistic is that it is preventable, said Anthoni Llau, an injury epidemiologist with the Miami-Dade County Health Department.

Most young children drown by falling in an unattended swimming pool, while a parent is distracted by a phone call or household duties.

"Parents think they will hear a scream if their child falls in the pool, but the opposite is true," Llau said. "Drowning is the silent killer. Water fills their air passages, and they can't make a sound."

Pool safety tips

Always watch little ones around water. Never leave them alone, even for a moment.

Install a fence at least 4 feet high around the pool. The fence should separate the pool from the house and play area of the yard. Use gates that self-close and self-latch, with latches higher than your children's reach.

Even with pool fencing, your second line of defense should be door locks and alarms. A lock that is located high on the door will make it difficult for a child to get out. A pool alarm will notify you if someone has gotten into your pool, even neighborhood kids.

Keep rescue equipment (such as a shepherd's hook or life preserver) and a telephone by the pool. Call 911 immediately in an emergency.

Remove all toys from the pool after use so children aren't tempted to reach for them.

If you can't find your child and you have a pool, check there first.