May is Water Safety Awareness Month and Florida residents are encouraged to practice safe swimming this summer. Drowning is the leading cause of death in children ages 1-4 and Florida has the highest rate of child drownings under the age of 5 in the nation. Polk County has the 12th highest child drowning rate in the State with a count of 25 deaths in 2014.
“With over 500 lakes in Polk County, our residents spend a significant amount of time in and around the water, especially this time of year,” says Dr. Joy Jackson, director of the Florida Department of Health in Polk County (DOH-Polk). “Being aware and providing safeguards around water related activities can reduce water injuries and prevent drowning occurrences.”
It is very important for all Florida residents to be aware of the following water safety tips to keep a fun family outing from turning into a tragedy:
· Supervision: Make sure children have close adult supervision when near the water. Drowning is a silent and deadly killer. It can occur within the small amount of time it takes an adult to talk on the phone, text, read a page in a magazine, or run inside for a towel.
· Barriers: Having a barrier between the house and pool could help to reduce the instances of drowning accidents by 50-80%. Examples of barriers include child-proof locks on all doors, a 4-sided fence (at least 5 feet tall) separating the pool from the house, gates with self-latching/self-closing mechanisms, and door alarms.
· Swimming Lessons: Children, adolescents, and adults should learn how to swim. Remember that swimming lessons are not a substitute for swimming supervision.
· Emergency Preparedness: Know how to perform CPR. This is always a great skill to have, especially with young swimmers. It only takes 4-6 minutes without oxygen to cause lasting brain damage. Valuable life-saving seconds can be lost if waiting for EMS to arrive before beginning CPR.
· Boating Safety: When boating, make sure that all passengers are fitted with the appropriately sized life jacket. The US Coast Guard requires all children ages 13 and under to wear a personal floatation device any time they are on a recreational water vehicle.
For more information related to drowning prevention and resources, please visit www.waterprooffl.com. For information regarding swim lessons and water safety resources in Polk County, visit www.mypolkhealth.org.