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Swimming Pools: The Danger in our Backyards


Memorial Day weekend is upon us, and with it the usual warnings about congested highways, peak travel times, and the dangers associated with speeding, distracted driving, and driving under the influence. Most of us are acutely aware of the hazards presented by crowded roads filled with people during a holiday. But how many of us realize the danger inherent in the swimming pools that those same people will gather in and around during the holiday weekend?

Statistics gathered by the Centers for Disease Control show that drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1-4, and the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury death for people of all ages. In the nine year period between 2005-2014, 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) occurred annually in the U.S.; this averages out to approximately 10 drowning deaths per day. Again, the young are the most vulnerable: 1 in 5 drowning victims are children 14 and younger. Consider that for every child who dies another 5 children receive emergency department care for non-fatal submersion injuries, and that 50% of those victims require hospitalization or transfer to a facility for further care, and the true scope of the problem starts to become evident.


Although swimming pools present risks, there are numerous measures that can be taken to reduce the risks and make pools and swimming safer. One of the most effective measures is installing four-sided fencing around a pool. The fence should be at least four feet high with self-closing and self-latching gates that open outward and latches high enough to be out of reach of children. This kind of fence around a pool can decrease drowning injuries by 50%.

Supervision of children in and around pools is crucial. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 77% of child drowning victims had been out of sight of a parent or supervisor less than five minutes at the time of drowning. Child drownings happen very quickly and quietly; children lack the ability to fight the water or hold their breath as long as adults. This is why it is particularly important that adults who are supervising children in and around pools not be distracted by other tasks, by socializing, sunbathing, or cell phones. When children are injured at residential swimming pools, the majority of injuries occur at their own pools, suggesting that parents may be less vigilant when it comes to their own backyards. Similarly, portable pools--aka baby pools--make up 11% of all pool drownings for children under five years old. Many people think that baby pools are too shallow to present a drowning risk for children which is not the case (over half of infant drownings occur in bathtubs). Baby pools must be strictly supervised; a baby sitting in a pool can tip over head first into the water and not be able to right him or herself. In a minute--the time taken to run inside the house for laundry, e.g.--the baby can drown.

Swimming lessons are a great way to protect children from the risks of swimming pools. Participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by as much as 88% among children 1-4 years old, the age group most at risk. The American Academy of Pediatrics supports starting swimming lessons as young as one year old. Knowing CPR is also a good way to keep the odds in your favor, and becoming proficient in it is definitely worthwhile, especially if you have children who swim a lot and/or a pool in your backyard.


Even if all the precautions noted above are taken, swimming pool injuries and drownings still happen. If you or someone you know has been involved in a swimming pool accident, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm for a free consultation regarding your legal rights.

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