Teaching kids water safety could save lives this summer

1et_ArbouretumKids5_0710_ContentFor students across Toronto, the countdown to summer has finally ended and two full months of fun in the sun have already begun.

But before heading out on the boat or hitting backyard pool or local beach, the Children’s Health and Safety Association (CH&SA) is urging parents to take heed of some water safety tips to help keep their kids safe while beating the heat this summer.

“As a parent, the more prepared you are, the more you can enjoy your summer,” Veronika Bradley, editor for the Etobicoke-based safety organization, writes in an online summer safety article at www.safekid.org

For both boating and non-boating families alike, Bradley cautions that life jackets or personal flotation devices (PFDs) should be worn by all children when in, on or even just around the water.

“Children have often drowned when they were playing near water and not intending to go swimming. (They) can fall or slip into water quickly and silently without adults being aware,” Bradley writes. “A life jacket can help keep your children safe until someone can rescue them.”

To work properly, the CH&SA also cautions that all life jackets and PFDs need to be tested annually to ensure a proper fit, and that the zippers and buckles are in good working order: “Your child could slip out of a life jacket that is too big or not buckled up properly, so make sure the life jacket fits your child’s weight. Buckle it up every time, and use all of the safety straps on the life jacket.”

Just because a child is wearing a life jacket, doesn’t mean they don’t need to be monitored at all times around the water, Bradley adds, noting that drowning is one of the leading causes of death for Canadian children aged one to four years old.

In case of such an emergency, the CH&SA urges all parents to have at least some basic knowledge of basic lifesaving skills – and encourages all to register for emergency first aid and CPR courses through the Canadian Red Cross at www.bit.ly/1uUBY8a

Other general safety measures that Bradley said parents should heed to include:

– Ensuring that emergency rescue equipment, a first aid kit and a cellphone are kept close at hand at all times when out on or near the water

– Always making sure that backyard wading pools are emptied and stored upside down when not in use

– And establishing swimming rules with your children, such as: always swim with a friend or an adult; never dive into an area where they cannot see the bottom or are unsure of the depth of the water; always ensure a lifeguard is on duty before swimming at public pools or beaches; never swim near pool drains, pipes or other openings to avoid entrapment, etc.

For those families with pools at home, both pool security measures (such as fencing, gates, safety covers, etc) and proper chemical storage practices are issues that need to be addressed in order to keep everyone safe, Bradley cautions.

“Ideally, fencing should be at least six feet high and completely surround the pool…and gates should be self-latching and self-closing to ensure that the gate is not inadvertently left open,” she writes.

“Also, remove any items that could be used by a child to climb over a fence to gain entry to the pool area…and remove any steps or ladders leaning from the ground to the pool when the pool is not in use, and keep these items locked away.”

Other items that should be kept locked away include the various kinds of disinfectants, chemicals and sanitizers used to control the growth of algae and bacteria in pools, hot tubs, spas, wading pools, and whirlpools.

“Keep all chemicals out of reach of children and pets,” Bradley writes, noting that the lids to all chemical containers should be closed tightly when not in use, as inhalation of their fumes may lead to nose and throat irritation, coughing or even shortness of breath. “Store chemicals in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area, preferably off the floor as recommended by the manufacturer.”

Other CH&SA tips for handling of pool chemicals include:

– Do not store your pool chemicals in the same location as other flammables

– Always add chemicals to water – never add water to chemicals

– Never add chemicals to the pool water while swimmers are using the pool

– Always use the appropriate protective gear (i.e. safety glasses, gloves, and footwear) when handling pool chemicals

– Never mix pool chemicals together, as explosions, combustion, or fire can occur

– Always wash your hands thoroughly after using chemicals

– And last, but not least, never allow pool chemicals to get in contact with your eyes, nose or mouth. If they do, call your doctor or the 24-hour Ontario Poison Control Centre hotline at 1-800-268-9017.

For more summer safety tips from CH&SA, go to www.safekid.org