Think Safety Before Swimming
Summer will soon be here, but before heading to the local pool, beach or river, the Red Cross encourages everyone to take a moment to think about water safety.
Toddlers and infants are a group at risk although there has been a significant improvement in the drownings in this age group in the 1990s. There was a 40% decrease in drownings of one to four year old toddlers and 80% in infants less than one year old. This dramatic change corresponds with extensive research-based revisions of Red Cross national swimming and water safety programs and education campaigns by many agencies across Canada.
There’s still room for improvement, however. Toddlers drown mainly in swimming pools without self-closing and self-latching gates. If all home pools were equipped with this simple and inexpensive device, nearly all toddler pool drownings and about one-third of all toddler drownings could be eliminated.
Québec, with 24% of Canada’s population of toddlers, had 49% of the toddler pool drownings during 1991-1999. One of the main reasons may be that there is a statistically higher number of home pools per capita in Québec.
To reduce the risk, the Red Cross recommends the following safety tips when diving and swimming:
- Neck and back injuries are common after diving incidents and can result in permanent paralysis.
- One of the major causes of spinal injuries is drinking and diving. Young men are at greatest risk.
- The majority of backyard pools are NOT designed for diving.
- Never dive into above ground pools.
- Think before you dive.
- Ensure water depth is at least 10 feet deep. Remember the depth of lakes or oceans can change due to tides or seasons.
- Ensure water is deep enough for the entire path of the dive, and that no rocks or debris are in the way. The length of a typical dive depends on a variety of factors, such as height of dive and size of diver.
- Learn proper swimming and safety techniques by enrolling children in Canadian Red Cross water safety classes.
- Be aware of your limitations. Don’t go beyond your ability.
- When swimming in the ocean, be aware of the tides and currents and keep an eye on the shifting weather patterns.
- Know the signs of hypothermia.
- Supervise children at all times.
- Fence backyard pools and ensure gates have self-locking latches.
- Communicate and post pool rules. Keep emergency equipment and first aid kits close at hand.
“Peer pressure, even at a very young age, can also significantly influence behaviour and encourage youth to act in unsafe ways,” said Canadian Red Cross spokesperson John Mulvihill, Deputy Secretary General - Operations, of the Canadian Red Cross.
“Don’t allow anyone to persuade you to do something you think might be dangerous. Trust your instincts as a parent and stay close to your children while they are in, on or around the water.”