As a former college instructor, I spent countless hours lecturing on the topic of “Water Safety Saves Lives!” In fact, each time that I taught the course, Health, Safety, and Nutrition, I spent an entire session spewing the statistics of young children and drowning. (The child’s picture on the left drowned in his grandparent’s pool on April 30, 2010.) His name is John Michael. You can read his mother’s story by clicking on his name.
It took Barkley, my daughter’s Lab, to nearly drown in a neighbor’s pool before I put action behind my words.
I will preface my story be first telling you that Barkley loved water! I had given him a cast iron bath tub that had come out of our house. We kept it clean and filled with fresh water during the summer months. On hot afternoons, he would get in the water and submerge himself. You could see the pure pleasure on his face. Other times, he would stand under a hand held hose and let the water soak his coat.
Several summers ago, a delivery man accidentally left Barkley’s gate open. With the gate standing open, he left the security of his fenced-in lot to explore the neighborhood. He went beyond his own street to a nearby neighborhood. At some point, he entered an open gate that was located behind a house. Inside, he discovered an inviting swimming pool. It is unclear whither Barkley fell in the water or if he simply walked down the steps into the water. But, my guess is that it did not take him long to realize that he could not find the steps to get back out of the water.
I had been alerted about his absence and was out looking for him. I could hear the frantic barking of a dog, but I could not isolate the location. There were at least five young children walking with me, calling him by name. The neighbor that owned the pool happened by chance to walk into her kitchen and look out her window. She said that she shouted to her son, “there is a large white dog in the pool!” She and her son jumped in the water and lifted Barkley to safety. Within a few minutes, I walked by her house calling Barkley by name. Although he was weak, he recognized my voice and walked around the house. I hardly recognized him. He was trembling and whimpering. I held on to him to keep him from falling.
While it proved to be a celebratory event, I continued to be troubled by his near drowning experience. I thought about the data of drowning and young children. I looked around at the number of swimming pools in my neighborhood and knew that I had to do something to bring more attention to water safety saves lives.
I wrote Barkley’s story as a children’s book and titled it, Barkley’s Great Escape. I took some artistic liberties with what I imagined he was thinking during his ordeal. My book was published by Ambassador International Publishing. The book affords me the opportunity to share it with many children’s groups in school settings and child care centers. While the story is entertaining, the message is not lost on children. After reading the story, the children and I discuss ways to be safe around water. Since it was published in March 2015, I have been invited to speak at college classrooms, conferences, libraries, bookstores, and I was even interviewed on television. I never pass up and opportunity to talk about water safety. Recently, I became a Pool Safety Campaign Safety Leader, a campaign launched by the U.S. Consumer Safety Commission. Please sign up for their newsletter.
While it is important to discuss water-safety with young children, it is the adults that can make the changes in and around their homes to protect children. Perhaps, you don’t have young children living at home. What about children visiting? What about neighbors? Please read some safety suggestions below and make the changes necessary to insure that all children are safe.
According to the Red Cross:
For a printable copy: Swim Safety
Install and use barriers around your home pool or hot tub. Safety covers and pool alarms should be added as additional layers of protection.
Ensure that pool barriers enclose the entire pool area, are at least 4-feet high with gates that are self-closing, self-latching and open outward, and away from the pool. The latch should be high enough to be out of a small child’s reach.
Do not consider you home as one of the barriers. Young children will open a door and have access to the swimming pool
If you have an above-ground or inflatable pool, remove access ladders and secure the safety cover whenever the pool is not in use.
Remove any structures that provide access to the pool, such as outdoor furniture, climbable trees, decorative walls and playground equipment.
Keep toys that are not in use away from the pool and out of sight. Toys can attract young children to the pool.
Maintain Constant Supervision
Actively supervise kids whenever around the water—even if lifeguards are present. Do not just drop your kids off at the public pool or leave them at the beach—designate a responsible adult to supervise.
Always stay within arm’s reach of young children and avoid distractions when supervising children around water.
Put the cell phones away if you have a young child near the water.
Know What to Do in an Emergency
If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.
Know how and when to call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
If you own a home pool or hot tub, have appropriate equipment, such as reaching or throwing equipment, a cell phone, life jackets and a first aid kit.
Enroll in Red Cross home pool safety, water safety, first aid and CPR courses to learn how to prevent and respond to emergencies.
Remember, water safety saves lives. Please join me in getting the word out!