Friday, April 24, 2015

Smart Safety: Pool Safety Interview

I recently had a chance to interview Eric Lupton, President of Life Saver Pool Fence Systems, Inc., about pool safety.

What factors contribute to drownings (or near-drownings) in home pools?

Lack of education is really the biggest factor that contributes to drownings nationwide. Parents don't realize how silent and fast drowning is. They think they will hear their child fall into the pool or cry for help, but in reality, children slip into the pool quietly and then drown very quickly. Many parents also don't realize how common drowning is (drowning is the #1 accidental cause of death for children under 5), so they don't take the necessary precautions to make their pools safer. When the pool is in use, like during a pool party, the most common cause of drowning is one adult assuming another adult is supervising, when really neither are. There is a psychological phenomenon called "diffusion of responsibility" that occurs when multiple adults are present, where they all become less vigilant than if they were the sole person responsible for supervision. This is why you hear so many stories of children drowning in a pool full of people and nobody notices until it's too late.

Besides fatal drownings, what other injuries and health effects can near-drownings cause?

Non-fatal drownings can result in injuries ranging from absolutely nothing at all to severe, permanent neurological damage, requiring lifelong, 24/7 care.

What can parents do to prevent these accidental deaths?
It's important to know that drowning IS preventable. The solution is to institute layers of protection. Parent supervision is the most important
​layer, but it can and does fail -- one or both parents were responsible for supervision in 69% of fatal drowning incidents.. No one can watch an active toddler every moment of every day. The annoying neighbor rings the doorbell to borrow milk (again), your burning dinner sets the fire alarm off, your seven year old runs inside with a bloody nose, you drop a frozen pork chop on your toe – distractions happen. It only takes minutes for your life to be turned upside down forever.

The solution is to implement layers of protection. In addition to active parent supervision, Life Saver Systems recommends:

High locks and alarms on all doors and windows with pool access.
A pool safety fence isolating the pool from the home and all access points.
Alarms both in the pool and worn on the child.
Water survival training as soon as you and your doctor feel comfortable
CPR and rescue techniques – your final layer of defense.

The more layers you have, the safer your pool area. If there is a lapse in supervision, for whatever reason, all must fail before a drowning can occur.

If the pool is in use and multiple adults are present, pick a water watcher whose sole job is to watch the pool and the children for 15 minutes -- no reading, no texting, nothing but supervision for 15 minutes. When the 15 minutes are up, assign the next person. This way, one person is always definitely watching the pool.​

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