Stay cool but stay safe in the pool

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

With the fun of water recreation in the summertime comes an ever-present responsibility of water safety, whether at a pool, lake, beach, river or creek.

Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional death in the United States, reports the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

&uot;Drowning is also the second major cause of injury-related deaths in people ages 1-14, making children the age group most prone to drowning,&uot; said officials of the NCHS.

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Each year, about 350 children ages five and younger drown in pools, with almost half of those fatalities occurring June through August, said U.S. Product Safety Commission officials.

&uot;The best advice for families with pools at the home is to make sure that all family members, including children, know how to swim,&uot; said American Red Cross health and safety expert Connie Harvey.

The YMCA offers five different sessions of swimming classes for ages three and up in the months of May, June and July, including an adult class.

Water safety education also will be incorporated into the swimming lessons, said YMCA director Amanda Phillips.

The American Red Cross offers classes promoting water safety.

Last year, nearly 12 million people signed up for lifesaving health and safety classes, such as first aid and CPR, with the organization,&uot; the Red Cross website reported.

Since the Boating Safety Reform Act passed in 1998, a person must go through a boater safety course in order to receive a boating license, said Alabama Marine Police Captain Bob Huffaker.

&uot;Since then, there has been a 46 percent decrease in boating fatalities,&uot; he said. Last year, we had fewer fatalities than ever before in Alabama. People are more aware of what is required of them.&uot;

&uot;The most important piece of safety equipment in a boat is a life preserver,&uot; Huffaker said. &uot;It’s just added insurance.&uot;

He went on to explain that boating accidents can happen suddenly and it is almost impossible to put on a life jacket once a person is in the water.

&uot;Boaters should use good common sense and always know what is going on around them on the water,&uot; Huffaker said. &uot;Better education results in fewer accidents.&uot;

Alcohol is involved in 25 to 50 percent of adult and adolescent drownings, reports officials of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

Water safety is not a major problem in this area simply because we are not around a lot of water, said Greenville fire chief Mike Phillips.

He said the biggest water safety concern in the Greenville area is during flash floods.

&uot;People try to drive across water in the road, and it causes automobile accidents,&uot; Phillips said.

In response to the problem, the department has put together a water rescue program.

&uot;Basically, we’ve gathered equipment that will help us rescue people if they get caught in a flash flood,&uot; Phillips said.

&uot;The best safety advice I can give people during a flash flood is to heed the warnings and don’t try to cross when water crosses a roadway,&uot; he said.