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Take Caution Before Taking a Dip

The heat wave will lure many to pools and the lakes, but make sure the refreshment of the water doesn't end in tragedy.

Unless you've got some great air conditioning and don't mind hiding from the heat indoors, it's likely a great many of you will be looking to a pool or the lake to jump in and cool off. However, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is sharing some sobering statistics on the number of drownings during previous July 4th holidays.

CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum is reminding parents and caregivers to pool safely during upcoming pool parties and celebrations with family and friends.

“Along with fireworks, spending time in the pool is a traditional July 4th activity for many families,” Tenenbaum said in a release. “Child drownings are a preventable tragedy, so we encourage all families who are planning to spend time in pools and spas over the Independence Day holiday and all summer to adopt as many safety steps as possible. You never know which safety step will save a life—until it does.” 

Locally, many will be making their way to cool off in Lake Michigan at But there are no lifeguards patrolling the beach there and that can present a danger to smaller children if they are unsupervised.

But there are plenty of ways to help make sure your children are safe particularly in the pool. A pool alarm is a device that sounds a loud alert if a small child or pet weighing at least 18 pounds should fall into the backyard pool. Most pool alarms will sound the alert at pool side and at a remote siren often placed inside the home. Wristbands for small children can also sound an alarm if they come into contact with water.

According to analysis of media reports by USA Swimming, the national governing body for the sport of swimming, in 2011, there were 25 drowning incidents involving children younger than 15 reported over the week of the July 4 holiday (June 30 through July 6). In 2010, 24 drowning incidents were reported during that same week. CPSC reports that annually there are about 390 pool or spa-related drownings for children younger than 15. Another 5,200 children of that age go to hospital emergency rooms for near-drowning injuries. An unknown number of children are seriously brain-damaged.

CPSC’s Pool Safely campaign (www.PoolSafely.gov) is a national public education effort to reduce child drownings, near-drownings and entrapments in swimming pools and spas. The campaign’s message is that Simple Steps Save Lives. Simple water steps that could help families avoid a tragedy this holiday include:

Staying Close, Being Alert and Watching Children in and Around the Pool

  • Never leave a child unattended in a pool or spa and always watch your children closely around all bodies of water
  • Teach children basic water safety tips
  • Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments
  • Have a telephone close by when you or your family are using a pool or spa
  • If a child is missing, look for him or her in the pool or spa first
  • Share safety instructions with family, friends and neighbors

Learning and Practicing Water Safety Skills

  • Learn how to swim and teach your child how to swim
  • Learn to perform CPR on children and adults, and update those skills regularly
  • Understand the basics of life-saving so that you can assist in a pool emergency

Having the Appropriate Equipment for Your Pool or Spa

  • Install a four-foot or taller fence around the pool and spa and use self-closing and self-latching gates; ask your neighbors to do the same at their pools
  • Install and use a lockable safety cover on your spa
  • If your house serves as a fourth side of a fence around a pool, install and use a door or pool alarm
  • Maintain pool and spa covers in good working order
  • Ensure any pool and spa you use has drain covers that comply with federal standards, and ask your pool service provider if you do not know
  • Have lifesaving equipment such as life rings, floats or a reaching pole available and easily accessible

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