Drowning claims the lives of about nine people a day in the United States. In 2005, more than 25 people drowned in Northeast Florida. Statewide, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children under 5 and the second leading cause of injury-related death among children age 5-14.
More than 60 percent of drownings statewide occur in swimming pools, but the ocean, lakes, retention ponds, rivers, bathtubs and even buckets claim their share of victims. Make sure that anytime you're around water you keep a watchful eye on children and practice water safety.
- Learn to swim. If you live in Florida, the best thing you can do to stay safe around water is learn to swim.
- Enroll children in swim classes annually from age 3 or 4 until they become strong swimmers. Adults that don't know how to swim should enroll in an adult class.
- Enroll babies and toddlers in water safety training that teaches them to float and tread water.
- Never leave young children in a swimming pool area or bath tub without supervision. A supervising adult should not read, talk on the phone, leave to answer the door, cook or participate in any other distracting activity.
- Never swim alone. Always swim with a buddy.
- Swim in areas supervised by a lifeguard.
- Never rely on air-filled swimming aids such as water wings in place of Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices (life jackets) or life preservers for children or any non-swimmer.
- Enter the water feet first. Protect your head, neck and spine. Never dive headfirst into any water where the bottom is not visible or that it is clear the area is free of obstacles.
- Do not mix alcohol with swimming or boating.
- Learn CPR and first aid. And make sure that anyone who baby sits your children knows CPR and first aid as well.
- Establish water safety rules for your family based on each person's swimming abilities.
- Watch for rip currents or dangerous waves at the beach.
- If caught in a rip current, don't fight it. Swim parallel to the shore until the pull stops and then swim back in to shore. Don't try to swim against the current.
- Install a phone by your pool or keep a cell phone at hand in case of emergencies.
For additional safety tips about specific aquatic activities, visit the American Red Cross.