As social distancing is gradually loosening and as temperatures rise, folks will be seeking a refreshing escape by taking a dip in a cool pool or in one of our scenic local waterways. But whether you are sitting poolside, dockside or in a creek or river, being aware of what is going on around you remains as vital as ever to ensuring a safe and fun summer experience.
“It only takes a moment. A child or weak swimmer can drown in the time it takes to reply to a text, check a fishing line or apply sunscreen. Death and injury from drownings happen every day in home pools and hot tubs, at the beach or in oceans, lakes, rivers and streams, bathtubs, and even buckets,” the American Red Cross states.
The organization, which offers certifications in swimming, lifeguarding and CPR, states that drowning is the leading cause of death for children.
According to the Red Cross, children younger than a year old are more likely to drown at home. For those younger than 5, the vast majority of drownings are in home pools and hot tubs, often those owned by friends or relatives. Bathtubs, wells, decorative ponds: A child can drown anywhere water is present. And for children older than 5, waterways such as ponds and lakes are the most common sites of drownings.
“Ten people die each day from unintentional drowning, and on average two of them are under age 14,” the Red Cross states. “For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency care for nonfatal submersion injuries.”
To ensure your family’s safety around water, the Red Cross recommends making sure everyone knows how to swim. The Red Cross says you should know how to perform the following five skills in any water you come in contact with: enter water that’s over your head, then return to the surface; float or tread water for at least a minute; turn over and turn around in the water; swim at least 25 yards; and exit the water.
For several years now, fifth graders in St. Mary’s public schools have taken a field trip to College of Southern Maryland’s Leonardtown campus each year to learn about water safety. During the day trip, CSM staff teach kids how to be more aware and confident around the water, and the youngsters are exposed to scenarios that would require water rescues.
With the more than 500 miles of shoreline in St. Mary’s County, it’s important for children and adults to at least know the basics of water safety. And this partnership between the local community college and public schools is a boon to that mission.
In addition to basic aquatic skills, the Red Cross also suggests ensuring multiple “layers of protection” around the water, such as proper fencing around pools, the presence and use of U.S. Coast Guard-certified life jackets and vigilance over children in the area. “Even if lifeguards are present, you (or another responsible adult) should stay with your children,” the Red Cross states. “Be a ‘water watcher’ — provide close and constant attention to children you are supervising; avoid distractions including cellphones.”
Finally, according to the Red Cross, know the signs of someone in trouble and how to help them. “A swimmer needs immediate help if they: are not making forward progress in the water; are vertical in the water but unable to move or tread water; or are motionless and face down in the water,” the Red Cross states.
The Red Cross states that children should be taught to always ask permission before entering the water. Children also should never be left around water alone, nor is a child to be left to supervise another child in the water. It is vital to maintain constant supervision over children around water; avoid distractions, including your phone.
If a child goes missing, the water is the first place you should check. Every second counts in preventing a fatal drowning.
For more about water safety from the American Red Cross, visit www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/water-safety.html.
We are lucky in Southern Maryland to have a public swimming pool, beaches and accessible waterways. We encourage everyone to take advantage of these offerings, but do so safely, especially when children are present.