do not believe that they should incorporate common safety measures for their pools, such as fences, covers, or alarms. It’s also important because many people who don’t have or use pools don’t teach their children to swim.
It should be mentioned that Not on my Watch failed to deliver one crucial bit of information: the number of non-fatal drownings that occur every year. Every day, America’s swimming pools see close calls where the child is rescued in time to send them to the hospital in serious, critical, or grave condition. In most of these instances, the final outcome is never reported. While the Consumer Product Safety Commission does report the annual number of emergency room visits, they do not report whether the drowning incidents resulted in brain damage or permanent injury.
But Nadina Riggsbee, the president and founder of the National Drowning Foundation, can shed some light on where these unreported children end up.
“Drowning is the one of the No. 1 causes of death and disability. The death is horrendous, but the ones who survive with massive brain damage are worse,” Riggsbee said.
According to Riggsbee, in California alone, there are more than 700 severely brain damaged children currently living in state hospitals as the result of drowning incidents.
“These kids are living well into adulthood, with medical bills for round-the-clock nursing of about $500,000 per year per child,” Riggsbee said.
The Not on my Watch column stresses that drowning events are real: tragic, frequently preventable, and much more than just statistics.
But there are a lot of take-home messages that statistics can provide. One message is that there must always be a dedicated water watcher when children are around water. Data from the “large gathering” drowning incidents show that simply having a large number of people present around the pool does not prevent drowning.
Another message is for parents to teach children to swim, and teach them early.
Children under 4 have the highest drowning rate. By some estimates, drownings are eight times as likely to happen to children who don’t know how to swim. Most of the children found in unattended neighbors’ pools were also under the age of 4. Teaching children to swim provides them with a layer of protection if they go unsupervised — even if it doesn’t make them drownproof.
But this also brings up an important point for all pool owners: Restrict access to your pools, even if you don’t have children. Install and lock a gate around your pool. Many children are attracted to water. The last thing anyone wants to find when they come home at the end of the day is a drowned neighbor’s child in their pool.
Concerned parents can get a complete list of permitted pools in their neighborhood by contacting their local planning department.
Additional layers of protection can also help to protect children against drowning.
Perhaps the biggest take-home message is to be aware of drowning risks. Awareness of a potential hazard could be the best protection we can offer our children.
It is time for drowning prevention to become part of our national conversation.
Our special thanks to Jason Lehman, the service professional who helped inspire our part of that endeavor.