Friday, July 4, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Every Fourth of July, firefighters speed from home to home extinguishing fires from firework mishaps, but there’s another, less frequent emergency that can be far more dangerous on the holiday: drownings.
The threat is high during the summer in Southern Nevada, where drowning was the fourth-leading cause of death among children in 2011, according to the Southern Nevada Drowning Prevention Coalition. But the threat becomes even greater during the holiday weekend when pool parties flood the valley.
Nearly every Fourth, there is at least one drowning in the valley, said Tim Szymanski, spokesman for the Southern Nevada Drowning Prevention Coalition and Las Vegas Fire & Rescue. Yet, drownings are completely preventable.
Here are a few safety tips from Szymanski that families can use to be safer while celebrating America’s day of independence poolside:
For those throwing a pool party on Fourth of July, Szymanski said it’s important for homeowners to make sure the pool is safe for any children who will be at the house. Some quick tips to make the pool safe include:
• Lock all doors, including the screen and doggie doors, to prevent young children from sneaking out of the home to the pool if there is no barrier surrounding it.
• Remove toys from the water that could attract children.
• Keep emergency devices readily available.
• Equip young children who can’t swim with life vests. Floaties are not an approved form of personal flotation device for children, Szymanski said.
• Set an alarm on the pool gate.
Designate a watcher
Just as there should be a designated driver at every party, there should be a designated pool watcher if there are children present, Szymanski said.
At every party, at least one responsible adult should sit at the edge of the water and keep an eye on the children. A drowning can occur in the time it takes for you to grab another hot dog or answer the door. If an adult does need to leave the area, Szymanski recommends children leave the pool until the adult returns.
What to do if a child is drowning
Silence is the most dangerous sound if children are playing in the pool.
Contrary to popular belief, young children don’t flail when they drown, Szymanski said. Instead, they will often slip into the water and descend to the bottom without realizing they’re in danger. Because irreversible brain damage occurs within four to six minutes for someone in a near-drowning and death can come shortly thereafter, rescues must be timely.
The first step is to put the child on his side. Then the adult should begin CPR. If no one knows CPR, a 911 operator can talk you through the procedure. Pool owners can also sign up for CPR classes through the American Red Cross or American Heart Association to prepare for emergencies, Szymanski said.
Other drowning dangers
It’s not just pools that pose a drowning danger to children. Anywhere there is an accumulation of water can pose a threat, Szymanski said.
Las Vegas Fire & Rescue has fielded calls for everything from a child drowning in an icebox filled with melted water to a toilet to a bathtub.
Anywhere a young child can fall in head first, they’re in danger of drowning.
Adults should be sure to keep coolers locked, toilet seats down and take precautions for any other water sources in which a child can drown, Szymanski said.