Multipure’s Spotlight for May 2021 is “Water Safety at Home,” which means that this month, our blog posts and social media will focus on ways to keep you and your family safe and healthy around water at home.
Whether in the home, in the yard, at a park, at a beach, or anywhere there is a large source of water, parents are the first line of defense in protecting children and families against potential water hazards. For parents of young children, water safety is of tremendous importance, as drowning is a leading cause of death among children 1-4 years old. Of those deaths, 88% occurred with at least one adult present, demonstrating that simply being in the area is not enough to ensure the health and safety of children. For older children, deeper pools, oceans, rivers, or lakes can pose potential hazards – especially for weaker swimmers. To help keep families safer around bodies of water, this article offers advice and tips to help parents not only prevent water accidents, but to help parents understand how to recognize and react to water accidents and dangers.
When it comes to water safety, take a deep breathe, and make sure to respire – RSPR:
The first step of water safety is recognizing potential water dangers to your family. These include any area with open access to water that someone – especially smaller children – can physically enter or fall into. This does not necessarily include smaller water containers, such as sinks, pitchers, or small buckets. Areas to take care around include:
- Toilet bowls
- Kiddie pools
- Full-size pools (above-ground and in-ground)
- Hot tubs
- Wells and cisterns
- Drainage ditches and canals
- Lakes and ponds
- Rivers and streams
- Oceans and seas
Recognition also means identifying signs of water distress – knowing when someone is in danger in the water and needs assistance. Signs of water distress include:
- Gasping for air
- Weak swim stroke – swimmers in distress can sometimes look like they are swimming backwards or unintentionally falling underwater
- Bobbing up and down in the water
- Hair in the eyes
- Hand waving or arms out to the sides
- Floating face down
Once you recognize and acknowledge the presence of a potential water hazard, the next
step is to always supervise any children around them. Supervision is more than simply being there; supervision means maintaining awareness of what children or family members are doing while in and around water.
- Baths and kiddie pools: Children may be playing and splashing around in very shallow amounts of water, but most baths and kiddie pools contain enough water that children can partially or fully submerge their heads. Slips can lead to dazed states, loss of consciousness, and falls beneath the water level.
- Toilet bowls may not seem particularly dangerous, but toddlers and very young children can slip or bump their heads on the hard porcelain, possibly falling into the water – especially if they have not been potty-trained for very long.
- Any type of pool or hot tub requires adult supervision, as splashes often leave slippery films of water around the water area. Running children can easily slip and fall from the water floors, bumping their heads and/or falling into the water. Likewise, supervision is necessary to ensure children in the water are staying safe.
- During hikes along natural water sources, supervision is required to ensure children do not slip and fall into a lake or river, or when crossing a river or stream, that children do not slip on a rock and fall in, or get carried away by swift currents.
- When swimming in a lake, pond, ocean, or other beach areas, adult supervision is necessary to ensure that children do not go out to waters too deep for them to comfortably wade or swim in, to ensure that children do not drown if they encounter difficulty, and to ensure that children are not pulled out by strong tidal forces.
Prevention is always a better solution to water hazards than reaction. Prevention is the heart of water safety – ensuring that any dangers are removed from the situation before anything can happen.
- Supervision itself is an active form of prevention, allowing for the ability to stop dangerous behavior or potential accidents before they happen.
- Any permanent swimming pools should be surrounded by a safety fence and locking gate to prevent unwanted or accidental entry.
- The fence should be at least 4 feet tall – high enough to prevent small children from jumping or climbing over the fence.
- The fence should be see-through (e.g., chain-link, posts with gaps, clear acrylic, etc.), to ensure that pool visibility is not obstructed.
- The fence should not provide makeshift handholds or footholds that can make it easier for children to climb.
- The gate should have a lock, to prevent children from easily opening and entering the pool area unsupervised.
- Swimming lessons are a great way to prepare children for swimming pools and water deeper than their height. At the minimum, teaching children how to stay calm in water, tread water, and keep themselves afloat can prevent unfortunate accidents or drowning.
- Protective and safety gear should be available near any pool area, including:
- Life vests
- Flotation devices, e.g., innertubes, pool noodles, etc.
- Lifesaving rings with attached rope – particularly flotation devices that are designated “Coast Guard approved”
- Anyone playing in or near a pool of water should memorize and understand essential safety rules:
- No running near water
- No diving in the shallow end
- No pushing people in
- No pulling other kids under the water
- No swimming without adult supervision—ever
- Swim with a buddy
- Get out of the water when tired
- A designated lifeguard – an adult or older teen with strong swimming ability – should be a necessity for any swimming activities involving children.
- Enrolling in a water safety, first aid, and/or CPR course is a powerful tool for any adult responsible for children. These techniques can save lives during emergencies.
Even with appropriate safety measures and precautions in place, accidents and emergencies around water can still occur. When this happens, it is important for parents to know the best ways to respond to best ensure the safety of all involved.
- If a child is missing, let everyone in the water area know and immediately check the water. Inform any officials to help in the search and/or rescue.
- If someone in the pool or other body of water is in water distress, get a life ring or other flotation device to them to help them float, and make sure a strong swimmer can assist them out of the water.
- If someone has ingested water, call 911 and begin CPR on the person once safely out of the water.
Water safety often comes down to a combination of preparation and education. Parents should do as much preparation as possible to prevent or avoid any water safety issues before they can occur, and children should be educated so that they understand essential rules to prevent any water accidents. If you need help remembering some general guidelines, take a moment and respirate – RSPR – recognize, supervise, prevent, and respond.
- Huggins, Molly. “5 Water Safety Tips for Parents and Caregivers.” One with the Water. March 30, 2018. https://onewiththewater.org/spring-water-safety/
- “Know the Signs of Water Distress.” Cedars Sinai. July 13, 2017. https://www.cedars-sinai.org/blog/summer-safety-know-the-signs-of-water-distress.html
- Reddish, Vicky. “The Parent’s Guide to Water Safety for Kids.” Florida Panhandle. March 13, 2020. https://floridapanhandle.com/blog/water-safety-guide/
- “Summer Water Safety Tips for Parents.” Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County. October 20, 2020. https://www.greatfutures.club/post/summer-water-safety-tips-for-parents
- Wahlgren, Anne. “10 Water Safety Rules to Teach Your Children.” Printable Parents. May 8, 2021. https://printableparents.com/10-water-safety-rules-to-teach-your-children/
- “Water Safety for Parents.” John Hopkins Medicine. Last accessed May 10, 2021. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/water-safety-for-parents