MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- When the mid-summer sun shines down and forces people to the pool to beat the heat, many patrons do not take the proper safety precautions into consideration, which could possibly cost them their lives.
“People think deep water holds no peril,” said Michael Carey, the aquatics instructor with Marine Corps Community Services. “However, water is the most unforgiving natural predator on the planet, because it can kill you in an instant without even moving.”
An alarming 250 children under the age of five-years-old drown annually in swimming pools, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Web site at: www.cpsc.gov. When included in unintentional injuries, drowning has been the second leading cause of death in children under the age of five. In 2002, an estimated 1,600 children were hospitalized for submersion injuries caused in residential swimming pools.
Although, children are more prone to be harmed in swimming pools, it doesn’t mean teenagers and adults don’t need to take safety precautions while swimming.
The biggest problem seems to be a swimmer not knowing his ability in the water and wanting to push his comfort limits without thinking about safety, according to Carey.
“There are so many people who can’t really swim, but they feel they need to be in deeper water,” said Carey. “I guess they feel they need to face their fears without learning how to do so first.”
People who realize they can’t swim very well should not move into water deeper than where they can stand, according to Patricia Mumford, pool supervisor, MCCS.
Camp Lejeune takes another precaution as far as safety goes for base swimming pools.
Carey, who controls the Area 2 Pool, the Paradise Point Officer’s Club Pool and the Tarawa Terrace Outdoor Pool, has more then 30 qualified lifeguards on staff, according to Carey.
“My lifeguards are all certified as American Red Cross First Responders,” said Carey. “And they are qualified to perform professional [Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation], as opposed to ‘buddy aid’ CPR, which is taught in more intermediate levels of life saving.”
Two lifeguards are on duty during the recreational swimming times at each of the three pools, according to Carey. Not only do lifeguards jump in and save people in the water, they are also trained to identify and prevent hazards from happening in the pool.
Another common guideline Carey would like to enforce is conveyed by the phrase, “never swim alone.”
“I can’t stress enough that swimming alone is one of the most dangerous things someone could do in the water,” said Carey. “Even if they are proficient swimmers, and especially if they’re not, people should never swim without being under supervision or accompanied by a friend. Things can still happen with others there, but they are less likey.”
Overall, the most tragic aspect of drowning deaths is they are preventable, according to the CPSC, but there is no foolproof method of prevention. The CPSC recommends using layers of protection including, constant supervision of young children; placing barriers such as a fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate around the pool to prevent access; and being prepared in case of an emergency.
The CPSC continues to prevent drowning deaths by issuing a list of tips to help create swimming-safety awareness.
The list includes:
· Putting fences and walls around residential swimming pools, which should be at least four-feet high and installed completely around the pool can reduce the chance of mishaps. Fence gates should be self-closing and self-latching. The latch should be out of a small child's reach. Keep furniture that could be used for climbing into the pool area away from fences.
· If a house forms one side of the barrier to the pool, then doors leading from the house to the pool should be protected with alarms that produce a sound when a door is unexpectedly opened.
· A power safety cover – a motor-powered barrier that can be placed over the water area – can be used when the pool is not in use.
· Keep rescue equipment by the pool and be sure a phone is poolside with emergency numbers posted. Knowing cardiopulmonary resuscitation can be a lifesaver.
· Don't leave pool toys and floats in the pool or pool area that may attract young children to the water.
· For aboveground pools, steps and ladders to the pool should be secured and locked, or removed when the pool is not in use.
· If a child is missing, always look in the pool first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.
· Pool alarms can be used as an added precaution. Look for alarms that meet the requirements. The commission advises that consumers use remote alarm receivers so the alarm can be heard inside the house or in other places away from the pool area.
· To prevent body entrapment and hair entanglement, have a qualified pool professional inspect the drain suction fittings and covers on the pool and spa to be sure they are the proper size, properly attached and meet current safety standards. If a pool or spa has a single drain outlet, consider installing a safety vacuum release system that breaks the vacuum to avoid potential entrapment conditions.