NEWS | April 24, 2012

May is National Drowning Prevention Awareness Month

By Nancy Haynsworth Joint Base Charleston - Weapons Station Aquatics Coordinator

The month of May is often associated with the beginning of the summer season and the warmer weather brings large numbers of people to the water; backyard pools, beaches, waterfronts and public aquatic facilities. Unfortunately, the month of May also signals an increase in drowning tragedies across our nation.

The National Drowning Prevention Alliance is spearheading a collaborative national effort to support May as National Drowning Prevention Month. The campaign's primary goal is to promote water safety and celebrate the role swimming and water safety play in physical and mental health and quality of life for Americans.

Among skilled swimmers, shallow water blackout is the number one cause of drowning. Individuals, who hyperventilate prior to submerging in order to stay underwater longer, exhale too much carbon dioxide which stops the breathing reflex. When blood oxygen levels deplete, the person loses consciousness and drowns without ever feeling the urge to breathe.

According to the Center for Disease Control, about 10 people die every day from unintentional drowning; 20 percent of victims are age 14 and younger. Drowning is the sixth leading cause of unintentional injury death for people of all ages and the second leading cause of death for children ages one to 14 years old. Children ages one to four and minorities have the highest rates of drowning of all groups.

Parents and caregivers are key to keeping children safe in, on and around the water. Making safety paramount can be the difference between fun and fatality.

Learn to swim. Swimming lessons for toddlers, young children and even adults can help protect from drowning. Swimming lessons must never be a substitute for constant parental supervision. Both, the JB Charleston - Weapons Station and Air Base, offer a complete array of swimming lessons.

Learn CPR. CPR can help you save a life. Learn CPR and get recertified every two years.
Use the buddy system. Always swim with a buddy and choose swimming sites that have lifeguards on duty.

Do not use air‐filled or foam toys as safety devices. Toys, such as water wings, noodles or inner‐tubes are not a replacement for Coast Guard-approved life jackets. While these toys are fun, they are not designed to keep swimmers safe.

Supervise your children. Supervise young children at all times around bathtubs, mop buckets, toilets, swimming pools and natural bodies of water. When supervising kids near water, avoid distracting activities such as playing cards, reading books or talking on the phone, and always stay close enough to reach out and touch young children at all times.

Don't drink alcohol. Avoid alcohol before or during swimming, boating or water skiing and never drink alcohol while supervising children.

If you have a pool at home:

Install four‐sided fencing. Install a four‐sided pool fence, at least four-feet high that separates the house and play area from the pool area. Use self‐closing and self‐latching gates that open outward with latches that are out of the reach of children.

Clear the pool deck of toys. Always remove floats, balls and other toys from the pool and surrounding area after use. These toys may encourage children to enter the pool area unsupervised and potentially fall into the pool.

Around natural bodies of water:

Wear life jackets. Even if they know how to swim, make sure children wear life jackets in and around natural bodies of water. Use U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets when boating, regardless of travel distance, boat size or boater's swimming ability.

Before swimming or boating, know the local weather conditions and forecast. Avoid swimming and or boating whenever there are strong winds and thunder or lightning. Watch for dangerous waves and signs of rip currents. If caught in a rip current, swim parallel to shore; once free, swim diagonally away from the current toward shore.