Water Safety – Make it YOUR priority!

Make Water Safety your Priority!  Water is an amazing thing… It soothes us. Its serene, sparkling surface invites us in to enjoy a dip, especially on hot summer days. But its allure can be dangerously deceptive. Calm water can hide strong currents, hidden debris, sudden drop-offs into deeper water, and colder temperatures. Such dangers take many lives each year. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, drowning ranks as the number two killer of its most vulnerable victims — children.

  • Swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards.
  • Always swim with a buddy; do not allow anyone to swim alone. Even at a public pool or a life guarded beach, always use the buddy system!
  • Ensure that everyone in the family learns to swim well. Enroll in age-appropriate water orientation and Learn-to-Swim courses.
  • Never leave a child unattended near water and do not trust a child’s life to another child; teach children to always ask permission to go near water.
  • Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets around water, but do not rely on life jackets alone.
  • Establish rules for your family and enforce them without fail. For example, set limits based on each person’s ability, do not let anyone play around drains and suction fittings, and do not allow swimmers to hyperventilate before swimming under water or have breath-holding contests.
  • Even if you do not plan on swimming, be cautious around  including ocean shoreline, rivers and lakes. Cold temperatures, currents and underwater hazards can make a fall into these bodies of water dangerous.
  • If you go boating, wear a life jacket! Most boating fatalities occur from drowning.
  • Avoid alcohol use. Alcohol impairs judgment, balance and coordination; affects swimming and diving skills; and reduces the body’s ability to stay warm.

Water Safety

Maintain Constant Supervision

  • Actively supervise kids whenever around the water—even if lifeguards are present. Do not just drop your kids off at the public pool or leave them at the beach—designate a responsible adult to supervise.
  • Always stay within arm’s reach of young children and avoid distractions when supervising children around water.

Would You Know What to Do? Emergencies can happen anywhere, anytime. In an aquatic emergency, every second counts. Survival depends on quick rescue and immediate care.

How big is the problem?

  • From 2009-2013, there were an average of 3,533 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the United States — about ten deaths per day. An additional 347 people died each year from drowning in boating-related incidents.
  • About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.
  • More than 50% of drowning victims treated in emergency departments (EDs) require hospitalization or transfer for further care (compared with a hospitalization rate of about 6% for all unintentional injuries). These non-fatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage that may result in long-term disabilities such as memory problems, learning disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functioning (e.g., permanent vegetative state).

Who is most at risk?

  • Males: Nearly 80% of people who die from drowning are male
  • Children: Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates. In 2013, among children 1 to 4 years old who died from an unintentional injury, more than 30% died from drowning.  Among children ages 1 to 4, most drownings occur in swimming pools. Drowning is responsible for more deaths among children 1-4 than any other cause except congenital anomalies (birth defects). Among those 1-14, fatal drowning remains the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death behind motor vehicle crashes.
  • Minorities: Between 2009 and 2013, the fatal unintentional drowning rate for African Americans was significantly higher than that of whites across all ages. The disparity is widest among children 5-14 years old. The fatal drowning rate of African American children ages 5 to 14 is almost three times that of white children in the same age range. The disparity is most pronounced in swimming pools; African American children 5-19 drown in swimming pools at rates .5 times higher than those of whites.  This disparity is greatest among those 11-12 years where African Americans drown in swimming pools at rates 10 times those of whites.Factors such as access to swimming pools, the desire or lack of desire to learn how to swim, and choosing water-related recreational activities may contribute to the racial differences in drowning rates. Available rates are based on population, not on participation. If rates could be determined by actual participation in water-related activities, the disparity in minorities’ drowning rates compared to whites would be much greater.

Safety Check!

Safety Check!

You’re not ready for the new season until you complete this risk- management checklist.

With everything from hazardous chemicals to heavy equipment, aquatics facilities are a potential land mine for risk managers. Here’s an opening season checklist to help you diffuse safety issues before they become explosive.

Inspect barriers. Ensure that chain link hasn’t been cut and vertical rails in fencing are no more than 4 inches apart. Use a tape measure. Your eye may not detect a quarter inch of additional space, but that little bit of extra room may be all a child needs to squeeze through and into your facility. Avoid ornamental fencing with horizontal members because youngsters may find this tempting to climb. Likewise, do not position benches next to fences. This can give a climber just the boost needed to get up and over your fence. Make sure all gates open outward, are self-closing, and have latches installed out of the reach of children.

Updaterecords. Contact the Health Department, the Agriculture Department and any other government agency for which you must maintain records. Ask for a copy of their report forms. Use this as a basis for the records you keep at your facility. Make sure logs are filled out accurately and consistently — they may be your best defense if an incident leads to litigation. Train your staff on what to include and what to exclude on chemical test logs and incident reports. Facility records should be limited to facts; opinions should be saved for staff discussions.

Run In-service training. This should be done with the entire staff before opening the pool for the season, and then regularly throughout the season. Emergency skills should be practiced in the setting where they’ll be used. Ensure that all equipment is operational and all certifications are up to date.

Check signs. Make certain that signage meets code, is properly positioned and easy to understand. Measure water depth and check to see if depth markers are correct. Install the international “No Diving” symbol alongside each depth marker in shallow water. At emergency telephones, place signage that indicates whether callers should dial “911,” “9-911” or just lift the receiver and listen for Emergency Services to respond.

Review chemical stock. Call the Agriculture Department to pick up chemicals that should be disposed of. Store fresh chemicals in their own containers or in new storage vessels. Do not combine chemicals to save storage space. And do not store incompatible chemicals — for example, chlorine and acid — in the same area. Check with your fire marshal to determine how much flammable material may be stored on site. See to it that fire extinguishers are full, and emergency stations for eyewashes and showers are flushed out. Update your MSDS manual.

Enlist experts. Use them for technical assistance with electrical and gas-powered equipment. Have an aquatic safety expert review your facility’s emergency action plan and do a thorough site inspection each year. If diving boards, slides, chemical feed equipment or filtration equipment need service, contact the manufacturer for a list of certified service providers. Doing the work yourself could save money in the short term, but may open you up to unnecessary liability.

Take measure. Measure the length, width and depth of each pool, and calculated gallonage. Just as a doctor must know your weight to properly prescribe medicine dosages, you must know how much water is in your pool to determine proper chemical dosages. Invest in a new test kit each year, and read and follow all directions. Test the incoming water as well as the pool water so you can anticipate the effect of fill water on pool water balance.

Examine pool inlets and outlets. Main drain covers should be intact and securely fastened. Also remember to follow new federal pool legislation regarding drain covers. Eyeballs on wall inlets should be angled to direct circulation toward dead spots. Floor inlets should not present a trip hazard. Vacuum outlets should have self-closing covers, and grates should be free of cracks and chips that could result in injury. Skimmer covers, baskets and weirs should be inspected for damage and replaced if necessary. A skimmer without a weir cannot function properly.

Visit the CDC’s Web site. Review the new Fecal Accident Response Recommendations (revised December 20, 2007) and update your facility’s procedures accordingly. Contact local and state regulatory agencies for their directives as well. Click on the “Health Promotions Materials” link and download brochures and posters for use at your facility. By educating your staff and the public, you can reduce the chance of disease transmission at your facility. www.cdc.gov/healthyswimming

Test flow meters,and pressure and vacuum gauges. Are they intact and properly installed? Replace gaskets or O-rings on pump strainers annually to ensure that lids seal tightly. Likewise, replace rubber parts on chemical feed equipment each year and inspect plastic parts for degradation due to chemical contact. Clean vent covers in chemical storage rooms and equipment areas. Ensure that air exchange rates meet standards and that chemical storage room air is not vented into the pool area.

Shallow Trouble?

With large aquatics centers and waterparks increasing in popularity — many featuring zero-depth entries, splash pads and more shallow-water attractions — more and more people are able to experience and enjoy water in new ways.  But are you staying away from Shallow trouble?

However, this also presents new challenges to pool and waterpark visitors, who mistakenly think they aren’t at risk of drowning at a shallow depth or with moving water.

Many guests, often adults and adolescents, are non-swimmers and don’t even know it. This is a scary scenario for any aquatics operator.

Large waves in the wave pool, currents in the lazy rivers, and the disorientation associated with going down slides with twists and turns, often is underestimated and can present a huge danger.

As an aquatics director, we’ve seen a 50 percent increase in adult assists and active saves in the past six years. In many cases, lifeguards are helping a person who is taller than the water depth in which he or she is getting rescued. The embarrassed, but grateful, patron often offers a common explanation, “I lost my footing and panicked.” In these cases, lifeguards often help the person merely stand up.

This lack of respect of the water can potentially place children at greater risk, too. Parents or camp counselors are less attentive because the water is shallow. The vast majority of the active saves of children now have been related to an unattended child who got into water that was too deep. Well-intentioned parents or counselors may tell a child to stay in the shallow area. But those of us who work in aquatics know the lure of activity pools’ many features are just too enticing for kids to resist. They easily wander and explore — often to deeper water.

Similarly, lifeguards sometimes need to rescue a child wearing a Coast Guard-approved safety vest. While safety vests are wonderful tools for parents to help protect their children, they are no substitution for adult supervision and often provide a false sense of security. I’ve seen children wearing life jackets incorrectly needing assistance. More frequently, children are unable to roll from front to back or vice versa while wearing the life jackets, resulting in submerged mouths and noses.

Because of the increased saves related to the misconception that shallow water is without safety risk, consider some of the following basic operational procedures as a start toward reducing the risk and combating the problem:

1 Maintain accurate signage. Warn all swimmers that slides and attractions can cause disorientation and that “shallow” water is equally as dangerous as deep water because of changing depths, currents and other factors.

2 Implement a “within arm’s reach rule.” All children under 48″ are required to wear a wristband, given upon admission to the park with a message on the band to remind parents to stay within arm’s reach anywhere on the pool deck or in the water. The wristband also is an identifier to lifeguards of younger and weaker swimmers.

3 Forbid unattended children. Do not allow children under 13 years of age to enter the facility without an adult at least 18 years or older. (Often children who are 9 or 10 years old are lured to areas of the pool by friends to try things they are not prepared for. Adult supervision is needed to prevent this.)

4 Test and identify. If your facility contains slides or attractions, give to all children wristbands that indicate they are the appropriate height or have the swimming ability to use the equipment. Do this by having a swim test area and height check station. The slide operator still should do a second check for height, but this helps lines move quickly and prevents children who are too small from gaining entry to a slide or attraction for which they are not yet ready. These lines are a common place for children to be separated from their parents, but more importantly, can reduce the lure of nonswimmers if they have been denied the band.

5 Use consistent flotation devices. Do not allow flotation devices other than a Coast Guard-approved (properly fitting) life jacket. In addition, do not allow children who require life jackets to ride slides, use diving boards or be in water over their heads. Soon they will be going down the slide without the jacket and will need to be rescued.

6 Train guards in shallow-water rescue. It must be stressed that the shallow water can carry as much risk, if not more, than deeper areas of the pool. Lastly, encourage swim lessons for all children. Swim lessons are valuable and necessary training for all ages. This training can make all the difference between a fun or miserable day at the waterpark or pool.