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Cool down with caution around bodies of water

By: Andy Portillo, Loomis Fire Protection District engineer
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With the arrival of hot weather, people are now heading for the ponds, lakes, rivers and pools for the summer to cool down. As you head out, you need to always keep in mind the hazards lakes, rivers and pools can pose. A young child can drown quickly and silently, often without any splashing or screaming. It can happen in just a few minutes. Drowning ranks as the leading cause of death to young children in the U.S. More than 350 children under the age of 5 drown in pools each year nationwide, mostly in residential pools. Here are some tips to help prevent drowning: While personal floatation devices (PFD) should always be worn, they are never a substitute for supervision. Fences and walls should be at least 4 feet high and installed completely around the pool. Fences should also be self-closing and self-latching. The latch should be out of the reach of children. If your house forms one side of the barrier to the pool, the doors leading to the pool should be protected with an audible alarm or childproof doorknobs. For above-ground 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 disability or death. Keep rescue equipment by the pool, and be sure a phone is poolside with emergency numbers posted. Parents and caregivers should also consider being cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) providers. CPR can greatly improve a drowning victim’s chance of survival. Remember, the best way to prevent drowning of children is being prepared. They should be under proper supervision at all times. Often, teenagers choose to swim in remote areas such as lakes, rivers and canals. Adolescents choose these areas because there are usually no lifeguards and no supervision. More than 80 percent of adolescent drowning occurs in remote areas. Remote waters can be a major hazard due to submerged rocks, strong undertows and rough waters. They are also ideal places to drink alcohol without getting caught, and teenagers are less likely to wear their PFD. Alcohol is a factor in about 40 percent of adolescent drowning. Drinking impairs swimming ability and judgment, and may hinder a person's ability to recover after being submerged. Bystanders, what should you do if you come upon a drowning victim? Only and if the conditions are safe, pull the victim out of the water and immediately call 911. If the victim is in rough waters, don’t try to be a hero and go in after the victim. Do not risk making yourself another victim. If the victim is not breathing, give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation immediately. This is more important than trying to expel water from the victim's lungs. The best way to be water safe is being prepared. Parents and caregivers, constantly monitor children in and around water. Swim in areas that provide lifeguards and/or proper supervision. Always bring and wear a PFD. On the Sacramento or American rivers, a PFD is required for children 12 and under. Prevention and preparedness are the only “cure” for drowning when playing in or around water. Andy Portillo is an engineer with the Loomis Fire Protection District.