Over the last five years, more than 40 children under the age of 6 died from drowning in the Tampa Bay area. Six of those deaths occurred in 2016.
This summer, the Prevent Needless Deaths campaign is reminding parents, caregivers, and the general public to practice water safety to prevent children from drowning. Water safety is especially important during Memorial Day weekend and on the weekends near Independence Day, as the risk of drowning increases during summer holiday weekends each year.
Drowning is the top preventable death for children ages 1 to 4 in the Tampa Bay area. While parents and caregivers should be alert when children are swimming, drowning hazards are not just limited to pools, ponds or beaches. It can happen to any child, anywhere and any time. Pet water bowls, buckets, toilets, blow-up pools and bathtubs also pose a danger to young children.
“Every member of our community, from parents to babysitters to aunts and uncles, has the responsibility of making sure children are safe around water,” said Kelley Parris, Executive Director of the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, one of the partner organizations in the Prevent Needless Deaths campaign. “Keeping children safe is a community effort, and everyone can take an active role in preventing needless child deaths in the Tampa Bay area.”
The Prevent Needless Deaths campaign advises parents and caregivers to follow the below tips to ensure water safety for children:
· Stay alert. Small children drown silently, without calling out for help. A small splash when the child enters the water may be the only sound made. This makes it even easier for a drowning child to go unnoticed. In fact, two-thirds of small kids who drowned in a pool were last seen in the house.
· Designate a “water watcher.” The main reason children drown is because of lack of supervision in and out of the water. Assign an adult to keep their eyes on the child at all times when they are near water. The watcher should avoid distraction, especially by phone calls, texting or other electronic devices.
· Be within arm’s reach. When infants and toddlers are in or around water, an adult should be within arm’s reach, and close enough to rescue the child if needed.
· Never rely on floatation devices. Flotation devices, such as water wings, inner tubes or even life vests should be used only in conjunction with close adult supervision.
· Enclose your pool so children can’t access it. Be sure your pool and any pool your child visits follows all legal requirements for barriers and locks. All pools should have isolation fencing with self-closing, self-latching locks that are out of reach from small children.
· Get swim lessons. According to the American Association of Pediatrics, children can safely take swim lessons as early as age 1 at the parent’s discretion. Take advantage of free swim lessons and water safety classes in your community, such as those offered by The Children’s Board of Hillsborough County’s Mobile Water Safety Team which offers lessons in community and apartment complex pools.
· Be aware of hidden hazards. Empty bathtubs, buckets and inflatable pools when they are no longer in use. Keep pet bowls out of reach from children and bathroom doors closed.
In addition to drowning, the Prevent Needless Deaths campaign aims to educate parents and caregivers on the other two top causes of preventable deaths among infants and children: unsafe sleep practices and head trauma. The campaign is a partnership with the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, Eckerd Kids and the Florida Department of Children and Families.
To learn more about preventing needless deaths among children, visit www.PreventNeedlessDeaths.com.
About Prevent Needless Deaths
Prevent Needless Deaths is an awareness campaign that aims to educate people in Hillsborough County on how to prevent needless deaths among children related to water safety, safe sleep practices and head trauma prevention. The campaign is made possible by the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, Eckerd Kids and the Florida Department of Children and Families. www.PreventNeedlessDeaths.com/