With the calendar creeping toward Memorial Day, pool season has officially arrived in North Texas. And while that no doubt means fun for families, the medical staff at Children’s Health wants the focus to remain on safety.
Specifically, Children’s Health has partnered with Safe Kids Worldwide on the Water Watcher program, which aims to designate an adult who will agree to be solely responsible for watching the children in a pool when multiple adults are present.
"One hundred percent preventable. Drowning is the single risk area that is preventable 100 percent," said Jesus Alderte, the Senior Injury Prevention Program Coordinator for Children’s Health.
According to Safe Kids, among preventable injuries, drowning is the leading cause of death of children ages 1 to 4 years old.
Among the hospitals in the Children’s Health network here in North Texas, their staff treated children involved in 83 drowning incidents between May and September of 2018. Three of those 83 children died, but many more were left with debilitating effects as a result of the child’s brain being cut off from oxygen.
Nearly half – 46 percent – of the local drowning incidents involving children happened in backyard swimming pools. And nearly 7 in 10 of the incidents happened while an adult was present, according to Children’s Health.
As part of the awareness campaign for Water Watchers, Jesus Alderte and the other members of a volunteer organization called ‘Know Before You Go’ are going door-to-door hanging placards on the homes that have backyard pools, which include safety tips as well as a detachable bracelet and laminated card. The bracelet and card are to be worn by the designated Water Watcher, and display the following pledge:
While wearing this tag, I agree to supervise the children in the open water or pool, keeping them in sight at all times. I will not leave the water area without finding an adult to replace me.
Longtime Plano-area swimming instructor Mimi Conner is a member of the ‘Know Before You Go’ team. She approves of the Water Watcher effort, and also encourages pool owners who have children to take several other safety measures:
• Install a barrier of some kind, like a fence, around the pool that the child cannot climb.
• Install an alarm on the windows and doors of the home that look out on the pool area.
• Have pool noodles or other flotation devices on hand that can be tossed out for a struggling swimmer to grab onto.
• Have a long pole available to be stretched out into and under the water to help pull a struggling swimmer back to the pool’s edge.
"I don’t like to have the doom and gloom, but these are life skills that children and families are learning, and I would hate to see a family not be able to enjoy what can come," Conner said. "The loss of a child can be devastating or destroying to any family."