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Private Pools & Children: Keeping Kids Safe

By: Allan M. Siegel

Recently, we’ve blogged on accidents involving swimming pools and shared information about the rights of victims who suffer preventable harm, the rights of families who suffer profound losses due to fatal swimming pool accidents and drownings, and who can be held liable when accidents are deemed preventable. While these types of accidents can happen to anyone at any time – especially when others are negligent – they unfortunately often involve young children. In fact, statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that children face the greatest risks when it comes to unintentional drowning and near-drowning incidents:

  • Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates among all individuals
  • Most drownings involving children ages 1 to 4 occur in home swimming pools
  • Roughly 1 in 5 victims who die as a result of drowning are children ages 14 and younger
  • For each drowning-related child death, another five children request emergency treatment for nonfatal submersion injuries

Recently, American alpine ski racer Bode Miller and his wife have spoken out about the death of their 19-month-old daughter, who tragically drowned in early June after she fell into a neighbor’s pool. In addition to discussing the tremendous pain they have endured and their emotional journey, they have also taken the helm in leading efforts to raise awareness about pool accidents involving children and ways to prevent similar drownings.

Prevention: Pool Safety Tips for Children

The Millers’ selfless choice to share their tragedy can help others better understand the importance of making safety a priority when it comes to swimming pools, especially pools owned by private individuals. Because most drowning accidents involving young children occur in private swimming pools at residential homes, our legal team at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. wanted to provide some helpful safety tips for keeping children safe in and around pools and preventing drowning accidents.

These tips and drowning prevention strategies are based on significant research from experts, and recommendations from agencies like the CDC.

  • Swimming Skills – Formal swimming lessons have been found to reduce drowning risks among young children. Teaching your children how to swim on your own is a good start, but experts recommend that you enroll your child in formal swimming lessons offered in your local community. This lessons are often available through youth organizations, park and rec services, and other community facilities. Remember that even if your child does receive swimming lessons, supervision and other safety procedures are still vitally important.
  • Learn CPR – In situations involving drowning and submersion, seconds matter. By learning CPR, you can help save lives and improve outcomes in drowning victims before emergency crews arrive. The more quickly CPR is administered, the better the chances of improving outcomes. Look for CPR certification courses in your local community for added safety.
  • Supervision In and Around Water – Supervision is essential any time children are in or around a swimming pool, so be sure to watch your children or designate a responsible adult when they’re near pools. Supervising adults should also avoid distractions while monitoring children in pools, even when lifeguards are present, as drowning can occur quickly and quietly.
  • “Touch Supervision” for Young Children – Supervisors of young child, particularly those of pre-school age, should focus on “touch supervision,” which means being close enough to reach a child at all times.
  • Use the Buddy System – Experts strongly encourage all individuals to swim with a buddy, even if swimming takes place at pools where there are lifeguards on duty.
  • Install Four-Sided Fencing – If you have a pool at your home, you should install four-sided fencing or gates to completely separate the pool area from the house and the yard. Fences should be at least 4 feet tall and use self-latching or self-closing gates that open outward and have latched beyond the reach of children. Using locks can also help prevent unsupervised access to the pool.
  • Keep Pool Areas Clear of Toys – Pool decks should always be kept clear of pool toys and other objects to prevent accidents that may result in drowning, and to ensure children are not tempted to enter a pool area without supervision. Consider storing all pool toys safely in a container or box for safe keeping.
  • Air-Filled / Foam Toys are Not Safety Devices – Life jackets are the most effective safety device you can use to reduce drowning risks. Air-filled or foam toys such as water wings, tubes, or noodles are not safety devices and should not be used in replacement of a life jacket.
  • Don’t let children hyperventilate or hold they breath for too long – Children often play in swimming pools by holding their breath for long periods of time, but hyperventilating before swimming underwater or holding one’s breath for too long can cause swimmers to pass out. This is known as hypoxic blackout, or shallow water blackout.

Preventing drowning accidents begins with knowing the facts and taking all necessary steps to ensure safety – from teaching your children to swim to securing pool areas using fencing. Unfortunately, our legal team knows that preventable drowning accidents can and do often occur when children are left unsupervised, property owners fail to take steps to ensure safety, or responsible adults are negligent.

At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., our legal team has handled cases involving child injuries and drowning accidents at private swimming pools. In fact, Partner Joseph Cammarata is currently handling a wrongful death case involving a drowning at a public pool. If you would like more information about your rights after a swimming pool accident or drowning, and learn how our team can help, please contact us for a free consultation.