As Marion County re-opens from COVID-19 restrictions, many families are still at home balancing work or online classes while caring for children.
Busy households bring many distractions and child injuries can happen in just seconds when distracted parents or adults lose track of their child, particularly if there is a pool or other body of water nearby.
“Drowning is the leading cause of death in Florida for children ages 1 to 5,” said Florida Department of Health in Marion County Administrator Mark Lander. “The large number of backyard pools in Florida, combined with lakes, springs and the ocean, means that there are ample opportunities for children to fall victim to drowning.”
Each year in Florida, enough children to fill three to four preschool classrooms drown and do not live to see their fifth birthdays. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries. In Marion County, three children ages 1 to 5 have died from drowning this year.
To help parents and caretakers be vigilant and keep children safe, the Department of Health in Marion County is sharing drowning prevention information. Those with pools are encouraged to keep layers of protection between their children and pools:
- Supervise: Don’s let distraction keep you from knowing where your child is. Check your pool first if you’ve lost track of your child.
- Use barriers: Make sure the fencing around your pool is secure and that the gates are locked. Make sure every door and window that opens onto the pool area is locked.
- Use alarms: Put alarms on house doors, windows and pool gates. Chimes hung on doors and windows also add protection. Use a pool entry alarm that will let you know when something or someone enters your pool – there are types that mount on the edge of a pool or float on the pool’s surface.
- Appoint a water watcher: If play time or family time includes the pool, always assign an adult to be responsible for keeping their eyes on the children in and around the pool. This person is the water watcher.
If your neighbor has a pool, let them know you have a young child at home. Ask your neighbor to double-check their pool gate and fences. If you’re visiting family or friends with a pool:
- Short visit: Designate an adult as the water watcher, who will always keep their eyes on the children in and around the pool.
- Long visit: Talk to everyone in the household about your child’s access to the pool and protection methods to prevent accidental access and injuries.
Anytime you are near the water, it’s also important that you have a phone nearby to call 911. If a child stops breathing, there is a small window of time when resuscitation may occur. Once Florida returns to normal, residents are also encouraged to sign up for CPR training and to sign their child up for swimming lessons.