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After Tragic Death, 5 Water Safety Tips for Your Family

Drowning is one of Virginia's leading causes of death for children and adults alike. Consider these tips from the Virginia Department of Health to help promote pool and water safety and find out what to do in case of an emergency.

The tragic death of 6-year-old Paul X. Wetshtein in Ashburn on Friday serves as a grim reminder of the critical importance of teaching children and adults water safety.

Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury and death for children ages 1-4 and the sixth leading cause of death for all Virginians. In Virginia alone, 464 drownings occurred from 2005 to 2009 resulting in 231 unintentional drowning/submersion hospitalizations. Most drowning deaths occur in natural bodies of water (42 percent), while 13 percent occur in swimming pools and 12 percent occur in bathtubs.

Consider the following pool safety and drowning prevention tips, collected from the Virginia Department of Health.

  • Stay aware: Never leave a child unsupervised in a bathtub, pool/spa, bathtub, toilet, water-filled bucket, pond, or any standing body of water, even for a second. Most siblings are not old enough to properly supervise a young child in this situation. If you are taking medication, check with your doctor before engaging in water activities. Prescription and over-the-counter medicines can cause drowsiness or have other side effects.

  • Learn life-saving skills: Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Because of the time it might take for paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills can make a difference in someone’s life. Virginia CPR offers classes for CPR and First Aid at dozens of locations throughout Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William Counties.

  • Fence it off: If you have a swimming pool, install an unclimbable, five-foot fence that surrounds the pool/spa on all four sides and separates the area from the residence. Fence openings should be no more than four inches wide so children cannot squeeze through the spaces. Lawn furniture, trees and shrubs should not be close enough to act as a boost to climb over the fence. Use self closing and self latching gates that open outward, and have latches that are out of a child’s reach. Pool covers are NOT protection. Covers can be deceptive, as they appear to be a solid surface to children but can give out under pressure. Consider buying a pool alarm system that floats in the pool and signals an alarm when there is a disturbance in the water.

  • Make life jackets a requirement: Never rely on flotation devices or swimming lessons to protect a child. Twenty-five percent of all drowning victims have had swimming lessons. Instead, require all persons to wear Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices when involved in water-related recreational activities, regardless of swimming ability. Do not use air-filled or foam toys, such as “water wings”, “noodles”, or inner-tubes, in place of life jackets (personal flotation devices). These toys are not designed to keep swimmers safe.

  • In case of emergency: The Red Cross offers the following procedure if a child is missing: Check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability. Know how and when to call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number. If you own a home pool or hot tub, have appropriate equipment readily available, including reaching or throwing equipment, a cell phone, life jackets and a first aid kit. Consider enrolling in American Red Cross home pool safety, water safety, first aid and CPR/AED courses to learn how to prevent and respond to emergencies.


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