Sunday, May 11, 2014 | 2 a.m.
It can be a quiet killer: A small child wanders out of sight and falls into water — perhaps in a backyard swimming pool, a bathtub or a lake — and slips under the surface. Within minutes, he or she can be severely brain damaged or dead.
“Little kids don’t know what drowning is,” said Tim Szymanski, a member of the Southern Nevada Child Drowning Prevention Coalition. “They slide into water. They’re not going to splash, yell for help.”
Last year, Clark County’s drowning death rate for children 4 years old and younger fell to a new low of 2.05 per 100,000 residents in that age bracket, according to data from the Southern Nevada Health District. Even so, four children younger than 15 died from drowning in Clark County in 2013. Three of the victims were 4 years old or younger. Thirty-six other children 14 and under were rescued and survived after being found underwater last year, according to county data.
Drowning can occur in any body of water, big or small, but backyard swimming pools always pose a great risk. And Clark County certainly has its share — 105,482 pools at single-family homes, to be exact.
In many child-drowning cases, a toy in or around a pool enticed the victim to the area. Then the child fell into the water while trying to retrieve it, Szymanski said. The scenario highlights the need for all objects to be removed from a pool’s vicinity. With pool season here, authorities hope residents remain vigilant when it comes to water safety, so this year’s drowning rate can drop even lower.
“Drownings occur mostly during the warm weather months, but they happen during all of the months here,” Szymanski said.
THE ABCDs OF DROWNING PREVENTION
A. Adult supervision: Never allow children or teenagers to swim without a designated adult supervising them. The adult should be sober and capable of swimming.
B. Barriers: A block wall around a backyard is not enough to prevent a drowning. Install a fence around the pool’s actual perimeter. Pool fences vary in cost based on size. Many retailers also sell pool alarms, which activate when children, pets or intruders enter the water.
C. Classes: Enroll children in age-appropriate swim classes, but don’t let this create a false sense of security. Adult supervision is still necessary when kids swim. Parents and caregivers also should take CPR classes so they know proper techniques in case of an emergency.
D. Devices: Children and non-swimmers should wear personal flotation devices when in any body of water. Rescue tools, such as a lifesaving ring and shepherd’s hook, should be kept near the pool.
EMERGENCY MOMENT, CRITICAL TIMING
1. If you find a person submerged in water, pull him or her out right away.
2. Check to see whether the victim has a pulse and is breathing.
3. If you can’t detect a pulse and the person is not breathing, immediately begin CPR. Continue administering CPR for at least two minutes before dialing 911. It’s crucial the person receives oxygen as soon as possible. (Note: If there are other people around, designate one person to begin CPR while another dials 911.)
4. Follow further instructions given by dispatchers until emergency responders arrive.
HOW TO TEACH CHILDREN TO FLOAT
1. Get the children situated in the water or around the pool.
2. Demonstrate what to do with arms and legs (hold them out to your sides so you look like a starfish).
3. Demonstrate how to float:
a. Keep head back, looking up
b. Keep arms and legs out to the side like a starfish
c. Take a deep breath.
4. Bring the children into the water with you.
5. Support under their shoulders and have them get in position.
6. When they feel like they are getting comfortable, ask if it’s OK to let them go on the count of 3.
7. Let them float on their own.
HOW KIDS COMMONLY GET INTO POOL AREAS
In a matter of seconds, a child can slip out of the home unobserved and potentially fall into a backyard swimming pool. These tragedies happen quickly and quietly.
Here are a few common ways children slip out of the house:
Doggy doors: A small child can crawl through a doggy door that’s left open. Secure doggy doors by sliding a panel over the opening to prevent children from escaping.
Low-placed door locks: Install door locks that are out of young children’s reach. Children can learn how to unlock doors by watching adults do it, so they must be placed higher on a door.
Open doors: Always close doors behind you, even if you’re running outside for just a few seconds. Children can follow and fall in a pool without you noticing or hearing.
WHERE TO LEARN HOW TO SWIM
Float Like a Duck: Paragon Pools will host its 11th annual water safety event from 1-4 p.m. May 24 at the Bill and Lillie Heinrich YMCA, 4141 Meadows Lane in Las Vegas. The event teaches water safety skills, such as how to float.
Desert Breeze Aquatic Center: 8275 Spring Mountain Road in Las Vegas
Hollywood Aquatic Center: 1550 S. Hollywood Blvd. in Las Vegas
Online registration for summer swim lessons at Desert Breeze Aquatic Facility and Hollywood Aquatic Center begins May 17 for a session that runs June 16-July 10. Registration opens July 12 for a second session that runs July 21-Aug. 14. Lessons are available for ages 6 months and older.
Henderson will participate in this year's "world's largest swimming lesson," an international event to bring awareness to drowning prevention. The event will be held from 8-9 a.m. June 20 at the following Henderson pool locations: the Black Mountain Aquatic Complex, the Henderson Multigenerational Center, the Heritage Park Aquatic Complex and the Whitney Ranch Recreation Center. All parents who attend will receive vouchers for free swimming lessons for children who ages 6 months and 4 years.