Drowning: It can happen in seconds

May 31, 2012

Nearly 500 Canadians die every year in water-related incidents. In 2006, Ontario alone had 182 drowning fatalities. Drowning is the second leading cause of preventable death for children under 10 years of age, while children under the age of five are most at risk. Six per cent of all drowning deaths occurred in private pools.

Canada Safety Council encourages you to take precautions while around water this summer. Whether you are in your backyard, at a local pool, or on the lake, be vigilant and make sure that children are always supervised by an adult.

“It only takes seconds for a child to drown, and it is often silent,” says Barbara Byers, Public Education Director with the Lifesaving Society. “We urge parents and caregivers to stay within arms’ reach of children at all times and to restrict access to the water until they are with their child.” Children can drown in just a few centimeters of water. Distractions such as the phone ringing, the doorbell or another child, can sway your attention for just a moment. Byers recommends staying within arms’ reach of a child, otherwise you have gone too far.

It is important to remember that almost half of all child drowning’s occur in swimming pools. The majority of toddlers, who drown, drown in backyard pools. Their natural curiosity combined with an attraction to water means that they have a high risk of drowning anytime they are near water. Children can drown quickly and quietly. They can fall into the water when a parent or caregiver is not watching them.

The overwhelming majority of drowning’s among toddlers do not actually involve people swimming. In fact, 92 per cent of toddlers involved in a drowning incident were playing or walking near water when drowning or near-drowning occurred. Lifesaving Society suggests either fencing off the hazard, or fence in the child. Be vigilant. Many children who drown do so because parents or caregivers lose sight of them for a short period of time.

“The number one thing is supervision. There’s nothing that replaces that,” said Jack Smith, president of Canada Safety Council. “The drowning’s that happen in backyard pools with kids, virtually all of them are preventable by adult supervision. If the phone rings, take kids inside with you.” Make sure that children don’t have easy access to a backyard pool. Smith also suggests for parents not to rely on flotation devices or water wings. “What if they deflate or happen to come off?” Smith said. “We don’t really recommend those. The answer is to prevent it in the first place and not rely on something after the fact.”

Important Safety Tips to Follow:

  • Stay within sight and reach of your child when in, on or around water.
  • Know how to swim or have an experienced adult swimmer supervise children in the pool.
  • Learn First Aid and CPR.
  • Know how to call 911 or your local emergency number.
  • Install a 1.5 m (5 ft.) high four-sided fence with a self-closing, high-mounted, self-latching gate around the pool.
  • Put young children and weak swimmers in properly fitted lifejackets, when in, on or around water.
  • Teach your children the pool rules.
  • Keep safety equipment by the pool.
  • Put your children in swimming lessons.