The hot weather that roasts Gilroy through most of the summer has many looking for ways to cool off, and the favored method for countless people is a leap into a refreshing pool.
But officials warn that whether it's an inflatable or in-ground pool, safety measures need to be taken to avoid tragedy.
“Home pool drowning is the leading cause of death for kids under five, and it’s usually when the child is under the care of one or both parents, who might have stepped away for less than five minutes,” said Cynthia Shaw, regional director of communications for the American Red Cross Silicon Valley Chapter.
Any body of water, even a 5-gallon bucket, can be lethal to a child who is unsupervised or unfamiliar with pool safety, said Gilroy Recreation Supervisor Judy Janisch.
“Whether they’re in the water or outside the water, safety is important,” said the supervisor, who has been involved with the aquatics program for eight years.
One big misnomer with drowning is that an incident is easy to spot. Truth is, drowning is a silent killer, Shaw said.
“Something that people are mistaken about is what drowning looks like—they see it on TV where there is flailing and screaming,” she said. “But drowning is a silent killer; a person drowning looks really calm and peaceful as they slip under.”
For Janisch and her Red Cross-certified staff, preventing dangerous situations before they arise is a high priority during lessons and recreational swim at and
Running near a pool’s edge, for example, is a classic way for a person to fall in and be at risk, especially if they don’t know how to react, she said.
“With the right prevention, hopefully saving a distressed swimmer won’t be necessary,” said Janisch.
Nearly 80 percent of national households are planning at least one water-related recreational activity this summer such as swimming, boating or fishing, according to a recent Red Cross survey released in late May. But that same survey indicated that 21 percent of those examined consider their swimming skills to be “fair, poor or non-existent.”
“Water play in the summertime is as American as apple pie—it's fun to do, and people should do it, but they need to be aware of the dangers and just be smart about it,” Shaw said.
So how do you have fun and be safe? The Red Cross recommends designating at least one adult to be solely responsible for watching those in and around the water, even if a lifeguard is on duty. Parents should watch their children at all times and maintain a distance of an “arm’s length” to give them the ability to make a quick grab, should an accident happen.
Parents should also maintain high alert with portable pools, as the dangers are high, because lifeguards are not on duty in most backyards. This is compounded by a parent running inside for a quick second and walking away thinking nothing will happen for the short time they are gone.
Many parents opt for inflatable pools that can be purchased at almost any drug store and inflated and filled with water. These inflatable pools, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, cause a significant amount of death and injury, as the sides of the inflatable pools are flexible and sometimes slanted or low, making it easy for a child to climb inside. The agency estimates that an average of 280 children under the age of 5 drown each year in swimming pools, and an estimated 2,725 children are treated annually in hospital emergency rooms for pool submersion injuries, mostly occurring in residential pools.
There’s still time to sign up for the last session of Gilroy’s swim program, which caters to advanced as well as beginning swimmers. Walk-ins are welcome at City Hall (call the recreation department at 408-846-0460), or sign up online. The final session of the summer begins July 25.
So cool off and enjoy these hot summer days, but arm yourself with the tools to make it a fun and safe experience:
• Always keep children at an “arm’s length”: Maintaining active supervision is critical with children. Children are less coordinated based on age and development and can slip under the water quickly. Maintaining an arm’s distance will enable a quick grab should a situation mandate it.
• Learn to swim: Even basic water exploration can help a young child be a tad safer when in and around water. Swim lessons helps to teach water safety and how a child should get to the side of the pool if he or she falls into the water.
• Never swim alone: This rule of thumb is essential for children but encouraged for adults alike. Having a buddy, lifeguard or supervisor will reduce the magnitude of any emergency.
• Avoid loose clothing: Loose clothing can get caught in drains or pumps in pools.
• Watch the clock: Keeping an eye on how long a child has been in a pool or hot tub will lessen the likelihood of that child becoming fatigued and less coordinated. Keep a child hydrated and give frequent breaks from the sun and water to prevent exhaustion.
• Reduce temptation: When not using the pool, avoid leaving toys and floats in a pool that can attract young children and cause them to fall while reaching for an item.
• Keep emergency equipment handy: Try to remember to bring with you a phone, a whistle, a pole or throwing device to be able to retrieve a distressed swimmer quickly if there’s a problem.
• Know CPR: Being able to administer CPR is critical in a life-threatening situation.