Swim safely this summer
By Kathleen Folkerth
GREATER AKRON — Warmer temperatures mean it’s time for pools and water attractions in the area to open, prompting local safety forces to issue reminders to residents about safety.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), fatal drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14. In 2004, of all children ages 1 to 4 who died, 26 percent died from drowning.
The CDC further reports that for every child age 14 and younger who dies from drowning, five receive emergency department care for nonfatal injuries. A nonfatal drowning can cause brain damage resulting in long-term disabilities, such as learning disabilities or the permanent loss of basic functioning, according to the CDC.
Andy Ayoup, a firefighter/ paramedic
with the Copley Fire Department, said 65 percent of
drownings occur in the victim’s own family’s
pool. Because of that, he stresses the need for local
pool owners to be in compliance
with local regulations regarding fences and gates.
“If it’s an in-ground
pool and the entrance comes from the house, there needs
to be an alarm on the door that is activated every time
the door is open,” Ayoup said. “It also
must be surrounded by a fence 48 inches tall with a
self-locking, self-latching gate.”
Permanent above-ground pools
do not require a fence, he said.
“But a barrier or way to
close off the stairs is needed,” Ayoup said. “Make
stairs movable or put a locking gate around it.”
Pool owners in local cities should
check their building department for regulations, while
Summit County’s building department oversees townships
Having ways to keep children
out of the pool when it’s not swim time is important.
The CDC reports that most young children who drowned
in pools were last seen in their home, had been out
of sight less than five minutes and were in the care
of one or both parents when the incident occurred. The
CDC and Ayoup recommend removing all toys from the pool
so as not to encourage children to enter. Ayoup
stressed that once children are in the pool, it’s
important for an adult to be present.
“Don’t leave kids
unsupervised,” Ayoup said.
He said parents need to consider
several factors before deciding if a child is old enough
to swim unattended, such as their level of competency
in swimming and maturity.
Ideally, the adult in charge
should also be trained in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation
(CPR). Ayoup said local departments like Copley’s
offer classes, as does the American Red Cross.
If an adult realizes a child
is missing at a home with a pool, Ayoup said the first
thing to do is check the water rather than looking in
the home first.
“Those seconds count,”
If the child is discovered drowning,
Ayoup said an adult should first get the child out.
Someone else should call 9-1-1, or if the adult is alone,
it should be left until the child is pulled out of the
He cautions that children should
not attempt to rescue a friend.
“If a friend is in the
water, don’t go get them,” he said. “Find
an adult and call 9-1-1.”
After taking a victim out
of the water, Ayoup said to start
CPR and contact emergency services as soon as possible.
“Even if you start CPR
and they come around, you should still call 9-1-1 because
there could be complications from a near-drowning,”
When going to a swim club or
public pool, Ayoup said parents and guardians should
be vigilant in watching their children, even if there
are lifeguards on duty.
“Don’t assume the
lifeguard is going to see your child,” he said.
“There might be two or three lifeguards but 50
people in the pool.”
He also said it’s important
to make sure your child is not running around at the
Swimming in lakes, ponds and
rivers also require precautions, especially since these
may not have lifeguards on duty. According to the CDC,
natural water settings are the location of the majority
of drownings for those older than 15.
“Keep an eye on your children,”
Ayoup said. “Check the depths of the water. If
they can’t swim, they shouldn’t be in there.”
Rivers also can be tempting on
a hot day, but Ayoup cautions against going
“Don’t go in if it’s
fast moving,” he said. “It may look like
you can walk through it, but it can sweep you off your
feet. Be aware of the current.”
The CDC further recommends the
Adults who are supervising
children while swimming should be focused on that rather
than another distracting activity, such as reading or
talking on the phone.
Swim with a buddy.
Avoid drinking alcohol
before or while swimming, as well as when supervising
Learn to swim. (The American
Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend swimming classes
as the primary means of drowning prevention for children
younger than 4.)
Do not use air-filled
or foam toys such as water wings or noodles in place
of life jackets. The toys are not meant to keep swimmers
Pools should be surrounded by
a fence to make sure those who cannot swim do not enter
Photo: Ken Crisafi