Drowning-related incidents on the rise this month, prompting more education
In light of the tragic drowning at the Sierra Recreation Center on Sunday, the City of Mission Viejo, Orange County Sheriff’s Department and Orange County Fire Authority are working to ensure residents know how to stay safe in and around the water.
Within the last two weeks, the number of drownings in Orange County has surged, with eight drowning-related incidents – five adults and three kids. Six of them were fatal and three of the 911 calls came from Mission Viejo.
Each May, OCFA and the City launch a drowning-prevention campaign to educate the community on water safety. In 2017, Orange County had 101 drowning incidents with 43 fatalities. Of the 43 fatal drownings, 31 were people over the age of 34. Drowning is also the leading cause of death for children under the age of five.
In May through August, drowning rates nationally increase by 89 percent, when compared to other times during the year. However, regardless of the season, it’s essential to take steps to safeguard you and your family. Please remember the following tips:
- Always be aware of your child’s location and the whereabouts of all children. Drownings happen everywhere including bathtubs, mop buckets, toilets, pools, spas, ponds and even standing water. Children can drown in 20 seconds and in as little as two inches of water.
- In addition to parental supervision of young children, designate a “Water Watcher” to maintain constant watch over children in or near the water.
- The “Water Watcher’s” job is to watch the water at all times, without engaging in social activities, phone calls, reading, cooking, cleaning or any other distracting activity. Ensure the “Water Watcher” is a sober adult who knows how to swim.
- Instruct parents, babysitters, and caregivers about potential pool hazards and emphasize the need for constant supervision of children. If a child is missing or unaccounted for, always check the pool or spa first.
- Do not use flotation devices as a substitute for supervision. Only U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets are designed and tested for safety. “Water wings” or “floaties,” inflatable water rings and other pool toys are NOT safety devices.
- Install and maintain proper barriers around the pool to isolate your swimming area from the home and play area. Use multiple layers of protection such as safety covers, gate alarms, door alarms, or motion-detection devices. Make sure all gates are self-closing, self-latching, and open outward away from the pool.
- Adults and children should always swim with a buddy, regardless of the ability of the swimmer. Swimming alone is more dangerous than people realize.
- Learn CPR, first aid and rescue techniques. A small amount of education can go a long way in saving a life.
“A tragedy on the water can occur in the blink of an eye, which means never leaving children alone near water and always keeping them in sight,” said Orange County Fire Authority Division Chief Rob Capobianco. “These types of preventable tragedies continue to happen with teens and adults too, so it’s essential that you don't go in the water unless you know how to swim and are with a buddy who can also swim. Swim lessons are available for all ages.”
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