It's a warm summer day and you're at the beach with your kids. Your cell phone rings and you answer it, shifting your focus from your kids to the conversation. Good idea?
Not at all, according to Safe Kids Snohomish County, and it could even be deadly.
Children can get into trouble in a matter of seconds when around water, so Safe Kids Snohomish County recommends parents actively supervise - with their eyes on their kids at all times -- when they are in or near the water.
Drowning is the second highest cause of unintentional death for children ages 1 to 4 and 10 to 14.
"Kids drown quickly and quietly," said Shawneri Guzman, coordinator of Safe Kids Snohomish County. "A drowning child cannot cry or shout for help. The most important precaution for parents is active supervision. Simply being near your child is not necessarily supervising."
Even a near-drowning incident can have lifelong consequences. Kids who survive a near-drowning may have brain damage. After four to six minutes under water, the damage is usually irreversible. Although 90 percent of parents say they supervise their children while swimming, many acknowledge that they engage in other distracting activities at the same time--talking, eating, reading or taking care of another child.
"A supervised child is in sight at all times with your undivided attention focused on the child," said Guzman.
When there are children in or near the water, adults should take turns serving as the designated "Water Watcher," paying undivided attention. Visit www.usa.safekids.org/water to download a free Water Watcher badge.
To help keep kids safe this water season, Safe Kids Snohomish County recommends these precautions:
Always actively supervise children in and around water. Don't leave, even for a moment. Stay where you can see, hear and reach kids in water. Avoid talking on the phone, preparing a meal, reading and other distractions.
Always use a life jacket if you will be in a boat or in the water. Life jacket size/weight must be correct for the person. It must fit snugly. When arms are lifted, the life jacket should not lift up to the chin. All jacket straps, zippers and ties must be fastened.
If you have a pool or spa, or if your child visits a home that has a pool or spa, it should be surrounded on all four sides by a fence at least five feet high with gates that close and latch automatically. Studies estimate that this type of isolation fencing could prevent 50 to 90 percent of child drownings in residential pools.
Don't leave toys in or near the pool, where they could attract unsupervised kids. For extra protection, consider a pool alarm and alarms on the doors, windows and gates leading to the pool.
Enroll your kids in swimming lessons after age 1, but don't assume swimming lessons make your child immune to drowning. There is no substitute for active supervision.
Don't rely on inflatable swimming toys such as "water wings" and noodles. If your child can't swim, stay within an arm's reach.
Learn infant and child CPR. In less than two hours, you can learn effective interventions that can give a fighting chance to a child whose breathing and heartbeat have stopped. Contact your local fire department for more information about infant and child CPR classes available locally.
Keep rescue equipment, a phone and emergency numbers by the pool.
These guidelines apply to inflatable and portable pools, in-ground pools as well as lakes and rivers. A child can drown in just an inch of water. Kiddie pools should be emptied and stored out of reach when not in use.
Safe Kids Snohomish County's life jacket loaner program currently consists of six life jacket loaner cabinets at various locations throughout the county. The cabinets are open and available for both kids and adults from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day. Life jackets are checked out and must be returned by the end of each day. There are directions on each cabinet explaining how to size and fit your child into a life jacket. Waivers and checkout forms are available on the cabinets. Both forms must be signed and placed in the check out box to use a life jacket.
Life Jacket Loaner Cabinets are located at Twin Lakes in Arlington, Kayak Point in Stanwood, Silver Lake in Everett, Flowing Lake in Snohomish, and Wyatt Park in Lake Stevens.
For more information about summer safety, visit www.snosafekids.org <http://www.snosafekids.org> .
North County Voices
Editorials, guest commentaries and
letters to the editor can be found here. We appreciate hearing what's
on your mind -- feedback about stories we've published, issues of
concern or anything else.