By the HELP Committee and Havre Public Schools for Havre Daily News
With summer weather fast approaching, the sponsor of the 2004 National Safe Kids Campaign is focusing its attention on water safety.
Fun in the sun often includes water activities - swimming, boating, fishing, jet skiing, etc. Home water safety, of course, remains critically important since bath tubs and backyard swimming pools also claim lives. Despite a 34 percent decline from 1987 to 1998, drowning remains the No. 2 leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in children 14 years old and under. Nearly 1,000 children die each year from drowning. For every child who dies, four more are hospitalized for near-drowning trauma. For every hospitalized case, approximately four children are seen and treated in a hospital emergency room. Knowledge is an important tool for preventing these accidents and tragedies. Knowing where and how children drown - as well as useful, concrete steps you can take to avoid danger - may mean the difference between permanent injury or even life and death to someone in your family.
The Splash into Safety campaign will be a major initiative that will provide safety suggestions at displays and information sites.
Information taken from the National Safe Kids Web site reveals some shocking facts about drowning. In the time it takes to:
cross a room for a towel (10 seconds), a child in the bathtub can become submerged;
answer the phone (two minutes), a child can lose consciousness;
sign for a package at your front door (4 to 6 minutes), a child submerged in a bathtub or pool can suffer permanent brain damage.
These times apply to outdoor swimming and water sports as well.
Water safety tips
A large part of prevention is educating parents, caregivers and children about simple safety techniques and knowledge.
Learn to swim. The best thing anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water is to learn to swim. Always swim with a buddy; never swim alone. Swim in supervised areas only.
Obey all rules and posted signs.
Watch out for the "dangerous too's" - too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun, too much strenuous activity.
Pay attention to local weather conditions and forecasts. Stop swimming at the first indication of bad weather.
Stop, watch, and walk into the water. Know what you are diving into.
Know how to prevent, recognize and respond to emergencies. If you have an outside pool, have an action plan in place to respond to emergencies.
What to do if you see someone drowning?
Call 911 immediately.
If the victim is within throwing distance, throw a floatable object like a life jacket, kick board, empty gallon jug, etc.
If the victim is within reaching distance, extend something to them like a rope, pole, tree branch, etc.
If you must go into the water to help someone, take a flotation device large enough to carry two adults safely. Keep the device between you and the person in distress; even a child can put an adult at risk in deep water.
Playing in and around the water is one of the major activities in the hot summer months. Remembering to follow the safety rules and tips will make it safe as well as fun.
Here's a short water safety quiz:
Question: True or false. A child should always swim with adult supervision, even once he has taken lessons and learned how to swim.
Answer: True. Never assume a child is safe from drowning just because he has taken swim lessons.
Q: Children can drown in as little as:
1. One inch of water
2. Three inches of water
3. Six inches of water
4. All of the above
A: All of the above. Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional, injury-related death among children ages 1 to 14. Children can drown in as little as 1 inch of water. Drownings can happen in bathtubs, buckets and toilet bowls in a matter of minutes.
Q: When do children need to wear a life jacket?
1. When on a boat
2. When near an open body of water
3. When playing a water sport
4. All of the above
A: Again, all of the above. Wear a life jacket when on a boat, near an open body of water (like a lake), or when playing a water sport.
The Hill County Safe Kids/Safe Communities Coalition, with the U.S. Coast Guard, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and the Havre city pool have joined forces to promote water safety and protect children from drowning. During the family swim at the city pool on May 2 and May 3-5, staffers will be on hand to inspect life jackets that families bring from home. They will be giving out a limited number of life jackets free to replace those that do not meet inspection or for those who do not have them.
For more information about this event, or other related events, call LuAnn at the HELP Committee and Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line, 265-6206.