Water Safety is Everyone’s Job!
We hear it all too often as firefighters, and the general public does as well. Another drowning or near drowning in Metro Phoenix. The typical situation involves a child slipping under the water line, usually at family gatherings and parties; with several adults and experienced swimmers nearby, and often times even other people in the pool when the child goes under. Every time we hear unfortunate stories like this, we ask ourselves “How does this happen?’ and “How come no one noticed?” This is because drowning is a silent death, which is a far cry from what is often depicted in Hollywood films where people kick and scream for help. Water safety is so easy to do, yet water safety compliance is seemingly impossible to educate the public on. If the fire department responds to your location for a drowning or near drowning, it is TOO LATE. Let’s work together to help you be an proactive, water safe, household and help save some lives at the same time!
As a general rule for water safety, all pools should have at a minimum 4′ high barrier (fence) on all sides of the pool, a self closing and self latching gate, a flotation device (life jackets or rings), and a sturdy pole long enough to reach the deepest portion of the pool from the pool deck. At least one competent adult should be supervising all activity in/near the pool at all times; and CPR should be learned and updated on a regular basis. Every municipality has slightly different regulations to help keep your family safe, be sure to contact Home Hazard Prevention for the most accurate and up to date information.
According to information provided by Children’s Safety Zone; there were 44 deaths (including 11 children!), which resulted from 143 water related incidents in Maricopa and Pinal Counties in the 2013 calendar year. Some simple water safety rules and Arizona pool requirements for safety are listed below.
Simple Pool Safety Rules:
- Stay close, stay alert, and watch children (and adults) around water at all times. “I was only gone for a minute” is never a valid excuse. Keep at risk children and adults away from drains, piping, and filters. Have a phone located near the pool with a permanent list of emergency numbers. If a child goes missing, check the pool first, then secure the pool fence (if there is one), and then move towards securing the door from the house to the pool/yard areas, then search the inside of your house.
- The ABC’s: Always Be Careful; and Adults, Barriers, and CPR. There is no substitute for watching your kids around water. Implement the ABC’s, learn them, practice them. There is no excuse to avoid them, we can help you implement them today. Water safety is everyone’s job, and is easy to implement!
- Learn, update, and continually practice water safety skills. Learn how to swim, perform CPR, simple water rescue techniques, and it is best to have 2 sets of eyes watching the pool at all times.
- Have proper safety equipment poolside. This includes life safety flotation jackets/rings, a metal pole to reach the bottom of the pool, approved drain covers, and a phone on the pool deck to call 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency. Follow the stipulations set in the Arizona Pool Requirements listed below; and always keep an eye on kids (and adults) around water!
Arizona State Residential Pool Requirements are listed here.
Note: The state requirements contained in A.R.S. 36-1681 may be superseded by local requirements that are equal to or more restrictive than the state requirements. Check with your local city and county governments to see if they have adopted different pool barrier requirements.
The 4 Stages of Drowning
When infants or small children fall into the water, they have a strong reflex action to not get water into their lungs. They often will flail and fight to resurface. They will flail to the point of exhaustion, to where they are forced to take a breath because their body senses they don’t have enough oxygen. They experience a sensation of suffocation.
As they start to sink, they drive to breath kicks in, probably the biggest response the body has. The children may gulp water. They will pass out. Losing consciousness comes from not having enough oxygen circulating in their blood. Young children tend to store less oxygen in the bloodstream, so they may pass out more quickly than those children who are older.
As the brain and blood continue to be deprived of circulating oxygen, cardiac arrest can occur. Some children will have a respiratory injury from inhaling water, but generally, those who have drowned don’t have lungs filled with water.
When someone is pulled from the water, you have to reinstate the body’s response to need to breathe. When the brain has been deprived of oxygen, it has lost the sensation to know they body has to keep breathing. In CPR, the brain says, “Hello, there is blood coming to me,” Dalton says. The amount of time underwater does not determine whether a child will live or die. The fate of the child depends on multiple factors, including how long he or she was without oxygen and whether the heart has stopped.
This story taken from an Arizona Republic interview with Dr. Heidi Dalton, Chief of Critical Care Medicine at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.