Water safety tips

Scripps Howard News Service

Home Safety Council research says drowning is the fifth-leading cause of injury and related deaths in the home because water safety is often overlooked. Why?

Few adults like putting on a swimsuit in public today. Some 92 unshaded degrees, the dull smell of chlorine, icky sunscreen, screams of excited children and the whistle of frustrated guards wreak havoc on the senses.

Years ago, kids simply went to the pool or whatever swimming hole, lake, river or bay was close by. And no one dragged parents along. Kids went with kids. Today, it's parent-arranged, sometimes. Only lucky children spend summer days swimming regularly.

I believe kids should swim two or three times a week. They need to learn the initial steps for swimming: That water doesn't hurt faces; that it's fun to put your head under if you hold your breath; that whatever goes down will come up; that we never want to be where we can't get to the side or touch the bottom.

"Drowning is a sudden and silent danger," says Meri-K Appy, president of the Home Safety Council.

"Anything from buckets and bathtubs to outdoor pools and ponds can be the site of a tragic drowning if children are left unsupervised for any amount of time."

That's especially true if children haven't been properly and routinely and repeatedly taken to the pool to play.

Choose your pool well. We take the kids to a small town where the pool is beautifully kept and supervised by a wonderful young teacher.

No one is allowed out of the shallow end unless he can swim back and forth across 50 feet of water without touching the bottom. Our kids work weeks learning to bob in the water, kick their feet, stroke their arms and make a judgment about how far "far" is.

It's all done with five supervisory teachers and three guards. Teachers are expected to get into the pool with the kids.

The ultimate goal is going off the diving board. This year at least a dozen children have learned to swim well enough to go off the diving board.

When a child is ready, a teacher goes with her to the deep end. The child practices a few times off the side before jumping from the board. It's a bit shocking at first, but it demonstrates to the child she has mastered a certain independence.

Before owning a pool or taking kids to one, be safe. Some tips:

_ Don't leave older children in charge of anyone who can't swim.

_ The pool owner must play lifeguard at all times.

_ Fences must isolate the pool from the home. Gate latches must be out of the reach of young children. Never prop gates open.

_ Keep a cordless, water-resistant telephone in the pool area and post emergency numbers near the pool area.

_ Use swimming lessons to refresh and teach young children.

_ Never let anyone swim alone.

_ Learn and practice lifesaving techniques, including first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Require CPR training for anyone who cares for your children.

_ Keep rescue equipment close to the pool area.

In the home:

_ Hazards include buckets, bathtubs, toilets, spas and all standing water.

_ Practice touch supervision. Can't reach your child? You're too far away. Don't let kids watch kids.

_ Baby bath seats are not safety devices and should not substitute for adult supervision.

_ Drain the bathtub immediately after use.

For additional information go to: www.homesafetycouncil.org.

(Judy Lyden operates a pre-school in Evansville, Ind. Write to her c/o The Evansville Courier, P.O. Box 268, Evansville, IN 47702, or e-mail her at jlyden(at)evansville.net.)