Summer is the most dangerous time of the year for children. Since April, 17 children have died from drowning in Florida, according to the state’s Department of Children and Families.
It’s hardly a surprise that Florida leads the country in unintentional drowning deaths for children. About 909 kids 14 and under have died since 2008.
For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency care for nonfatal injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That would mean more than 5,000 children in Florida have had close calls in the past 10 years.
According to Water Smart Florida, a statewide initiative to educate residents on water safety, the best ways to prevent drowning are supervision, pool barriers and emergency preparedness. Here are further tips:
• Start early: A technique called Infant Swimming Resources teaches babies as young as 6 months how to keep themselves alive in the water.
The first thing instructors teach infants is breath control, says Samantha Bense, a certified ISR instructor in Boca Raton. It starts by slowly introducing water to the baby’s face and getting them to close their mouth and hold their breath.
“It’s kind of like magic,” Bense said. “Eventually they start to hold their breath as soon as the water touches their face.”
After mastering breath control, the babies learn how to roll onto their backs and keep themselves afloat. Bense says any child who has the abdominal strength to sit up can accomplish this task.
• Prepare older children: Being knowledgeable about drowning prevention is one reason 10-year-old Macy McAmis of Jupiter survived her near-death encounter.
Macy was swimming at a friend’s house. Lying on the bottom of the pool, she heard a loud noise. Macy’s back got sucked into an old pool drain that was not up to code.
“I tried to get up, but I wasn’t strong enough.” she recalled. “So I started freaking out.”
But then she said she remembered some water safety skills taught at her school, one of which was to remain calm while drowning to conserve energy.
“I remember seeing my friend’s feet, and I thought, ‘Will she notice me? Will I make it?’ ” Macy said.
She began to lose consciousness when her friend finally noticed and got help. An adult dove into the pool, ripped Macy from the drain and brought her to the surface. Macy’s lips and fingertips were blue, and she had a large bruise covering her back and shoulder. She spent six days in the pediatric intensive care unit at Palm Beach Children’s Hospital.
Had it not been for the drowning education Macy received through her school, the McAmis family believes there would have been a very different outcome.
• Inspect your pool: Florida Building Code requires “entrapment protection for suction outlets” for residential swimming pools. Many residential swimming pools in Florida were built before safety codes, such as covering pool drains, were put into effect. Homeowners should do their research and keep up with the requirements.
— Catie Wegman, Sun Sentinel