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Drowning is the second leading cause of injury-related death for children (aged 1 through 14). It accounted for 905 deaths in 1997, and alcohol use was involved in about 25-50% of adolescent and adult deaths associated with water recreation according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. In Arkansas, we have had about 100 reported boating-related accidents a year over the past 5 years. These accidents have accounted for 10-20 deaths annually.
Swimming and playing in water are both pleasurable and good exercise, but you must take steps to prevent your child from drowning. The following are some water safety tips provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics:
- Never let your child swim in any body of water without an adult watching.
- Be sure the adult watching your child knows how to swim, get emergency help, and perform CPR.
- Keep a life preserver and Shepherd's hook in the pool area to help pull a child to the edge of the pool when necessary.
Teach your child the following safety rules and make sure they are obeyed:
- Never swim alone.
- Never dive into water except when permitted by an adult who knows the depth of the water and who has searched for under water objects.
- Always use a life jacket when on a boat, fishing, or playing in a river or stream.
- Caution your child about the risks of drowning during the winter by falling through thin ice.
- Don't let young children and children who cannot swim use inflatable toys or mattresses in water that is above the waist.
- Watch children closely when they are playing near standing water, wells, open post holes, or irrigation or drainage ditches.
- Teach your child to swim once he or she is ready (usually around 5 years old).
Pools and Spas
Pools and spas are attractive to children, and children must be kept away from them in the absence of adequate supervision. The following are some additional safety precautions provided by Mother's For Water Safety.
- A fence, wall, or natural/artificial barrier should completely enclose your pool or spa.
- All gates or doors leading from the house to the pool area should have self-closing and self-latching mechanisms that protect against unauthorized entry and use. The inside latch should be above the reach of toddlers or young children.
- If your pool, spa, or hot tub is indoors, lock the door to the room or have a cover that locks, to keep out children and other unauthorized users.
- Do not place objects near the pool or spa fence that could allow a child to climb over.
A clear view of the pool or spa from the house should be assured by removing vegetation and other obstacles.
- Always completely remove the cover before using your pool or spa to avoid the possibility of anyone, especially a small child, from being trapped and drowning under the cover.
- Drain any standing water from the surface of your pool or spa cover. An infant or small child can drown in even the smallest amount of water.
- If you use any of the lightweight, floating pool covers, be especially alert for the potential for drowning accidents.
These covers are not for safety, and no one should ever crawl or walk on them.
- Keep toys, particularly tricycles or wheeled toys, away from the pool.
A child playing with these could accidentally fall into the water.
- Do not allow anyone of any age to swim alone!
Examples of good safety behavior by adults are important to children!
Arkansas law requires that all personal watercraft and motorboats powered by engines of more than 50 horsepower must be covered by a liability insurance policy that provides at least $50,000 in liability coverage per occurrence. The registration card and proof of insurance must be available for inspection by an enforcement officer whenever you operate your boat on public waters. The following boat safety tips are provided by the Boat/U.S. Foundation:
- Take a boating safety class.
The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission offers a course on boating safety. The course is required for all operators born after 1985. ( Contact the ARG&FC at 501-223-6300 or www.agfc.com)
- Know your boat's load limit, and don't exceed it.
A safe boat is a well-equipped boat. Always carry the necessary safety gear... and know how to use it.
- Keep the appropriate number and types of lifejackets visible and accessible and never make someone feel uncomfortable if they choose to wear a life jacket.
- Don't overdo your boating fun.
In 3 hours of normal boating, the noise, motion, sun, wind, and glare can frequently double an individual's reaction time.
- 50% of all boating fatalities are alcohol related.
So remember, while a drink or two can relax you and make your day more enjoyable, alcohol slows your reaction time, reduces your coordination, and increases your susceptibility to hypothermia.
Additional safety tips:
- Before boating, check the fuel system for leaks.
Always turn off the engine and electrical equipment before gassing up and remove all portable tanks from the boat. Beware of static electricity. Touch the fuel spout to the tank before you add fuel. Leave room in the tank for the fuel to expand and tightly replace the cap to prevent fumes from escaping.
- Always tell someone where you are going, what route you will take, and when you'll be back.
General Water Safety Tips Provided By The American Red Cross
Learning to swim is the best thing anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water. The American Red Cross has swimming courses for people of any age and swimming ability. To enroll in a swim course contact your local Red Cross chapter.
- Never swim alone!
- Swim in supervised areas and obey all rules and posted signs.
- Watch out for the "dangerous too's"- too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun, too much strenuous activity.
- Don't mix alcohol and swimming. Alcohol impairs your judgment, balance, and coordination, affects your swimming and diving skills, and reduces your body's ability to stay warm.
- Pay attention to local weather conditions and forecasts.
- Stop swimming at the first sign of bad weather.
- Know how to prevent, recognize, and respond to emergencies.
Please Note: These suggested safety precautions are provided as a Farm Bureau member service. Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company of Arkansas, Inc. does not assume or accept any liability for damages resulting from the use of this information.