My son almost drowned in a pool. That’s why I’ve become an advocate for pool safety, especially for toddlers.
A few years ago, I had a day off during the summer, so I went to the pool with my wife and two children. My older son, Joshua, was three years old at the time, and the younger was a newborn. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful moment, so we wanted to take a photograph. Joshua stood next to me while I held my infant son and my wife took the picture.
After she took the photo, I handed our newborn son back to her. When I turned around, I couldn’t find Joshua. It took me a few seconds to spot him on the floor of the pool, writhing.
I will never forget the horror of that moment.
I was able to rescue my son from the bottom of the pool in time, but the difference between life and death is literally heartbeats for children aged 1-4 years old. They can drown in only 20 seconds.
Try to comprehend how small that margin of error is. Booking an online appointment or signing for a package can take longer. That’s one of the reasons why drowning is a leading cause of death for this age group, as the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.
I was lucky. My son didn’t become a statistic. Still, I would like other parents and guardians to learn from my harrowing experience.
To that end, here are ways to help keep your children safe around water.
- Designate a water watcher for each child
- Adults can be standing mere centimeters away from a child who drowns. They don’t notice the kid’s distress until too late, because they thought someone else was looking after them.
- That’s why my number one rule is to dedicate a water watcher for every child. That person needs to accept the role, focus on the child, and maintain eye contact with him or her at all times. This means eliminating distractions, including shutting off their phone and leaving it in a bag, or even a locker.
- If you are the water watcher, then use this opportunity to be present with your child. Don’t risk it!
- Set boundaries
Here’s another important rule:
Children must not go anywhere near water without a designated water watcher. Parents and guardians should make sure their kids understand this and adhere to it. While we don’t want to scare our children, we do need to educate them. It’s important for children to respect water as a powerful force — even in more controlled settings like pools — and follow the necessary precautions.
This is true for all different kinds of bodies of water, not just pools, but also lakes, streams, and oceans. Under no circumstances should children go near or play in concrete ditches, flood control channels, or arroyos. These are notoriously dangerous and become nearly impossible to escape when water rushes in.
Technology to keep the water safe
- If you are a pool owner, then you must employ multiple layers of safety around your pool. Full stop. According to the same CDC report from above, most drownings among children ages 1–4 happen in private swimming pools at homes.
- Basic water safety means pools should be fenced in to control access to the water. If you’ve lived at a property with a pool for a long time before having a child, please remember to child-proof the outdoors as well as the indoors of your house. You might feel comfortable with that pool, but your new baby doesn’t have the same knowledge or internal warning system. If they see a pool and have access to it, then they will go straight for it, so you need to think of putting up a pool fence.
- Pool alarms, security cameras, and monitoring systems are also a good idea. These are designed to give owners the best possible understanding of what is going on in and near the water. To be clear, however, these aren’t anti-drowning systems.
What’s most important, however, is not to rely on a single layer of protection. Multiple layers must be operable at all times.
While multiple layers of protection may seem at times expensive or excessive no one can ever put a price on the life of their child. There’s also no price anyone would say is worth risking a child.
For peace of mind, remember the above rules and follow them. Doing so will keep your family safe near the water.
— Sam Weitzman is the CEO and Founder of Deep Innovations and the creator of PoolScout. Their team is focused on enabling the future of pool enjoyment with cutting-edge artificial intelligence, deep learning technologies, cloud computing, and advanced video analytics.