Fort Worth

Warmer days mean drowning season is here

Fire departments in Tarrant County are reminding parents: As temperatures warm up, watch kids closely when they’re around water.

“We take it for granted and get complacent,” Grapevine Assistant Fire Marshal Bryan K. Parker said. “We always think it won’t happen to us, but it can.”

Texas has the most pool drowning deaths in the United States, according to the Fort Worth Water Drowning Prevention Coalition, of which the Fort Worth Fire Department is a partner. Tarrant County is in the top three in the state for total and per capita drowning deaths of children, according to the group’s website.

A Burleson Fire Department video urges parents to “keep your eyes on your children at all times.”

The video shows a young family in their back yard: a man standing at the grill, a woman looking at her phone while sitting in a lounge chair and their 4-year-old son sitting next to the pool. The video cuts to four firefighters responding to the father’s 911 call about pulling his son from the pool.

The boy isn’t breathing, the man tells the dispatcher.

The firefighters go to the home, treat the boy and load him in an ambulance.

The video ends by quoting a statistic from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention — about 700 children die every year from preventable drownings.

“Lifeguard your child,” concludes the video, which has been shared thousands of times.

Parker said it’s important to keep the reminder fresh in parents’ minds throughout the warm-weather seasons.

“When you’re at the lake or the pool, with friends and family, the last thing on your mind is the potential for danger,” Parker said. “But when you’re on water watch, you need to be focusing only on the people in the water.”

On TV or in the movies, drownings are often portrayed as much more obvious than in real life, Parker said.

“On TV, they’re often flailing their arms with their chest and arms above the water and yelling for help,” he said. “The reality is, it’s so quiet, they go under and afterward the people around realize the child went missing.”

Parker said parents should avoid distractions, particularly looking at a phone, because it only takes one time, just a few seconds of looking away, for something to happen. Parents should make sure their kids learn how to swim and wear life jackets around larger bodies of water.

The coalition encourages parents to teach kids about water safety and how to swim “as early as possible,” but don’t rely on swimming lessons, flotation devices or anything else as a substitute for supervision.

The group also recommends checking all nearby water sources first when a child goes missing, and making sure kids can’t get into the pool area without an adult.

The group has several safe swim programs scheduled for this spring and summer in Fort Worth. Go to its website to register.

Mark David Smith: 817-390-7808, @MarkSmith_FWST

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