Summer is nearly here in Florida. For many families, summertime is a relaxing time. But for others, it’s a reminder that the dangers of childhood drownings and near-drownings are all too real.
According to the Florida Department of Health, Florida experiences the highest rate of accidental drownings in the nation for children under five years old. Almost eight children out of every 100,000 people drown each year. That’s enough children to fill three or four preschool classrooms.
Fortunately, there are some precautions parents and homeowners can take this summer to curtail the risk, and hopefully save one of those precious lives.
Drowning prevention is everyone’s responsibility.
Florida’s premises laws, or laws governing who is responsible if an accident or injury occurs at a place or on a property, are written in a way that protects both the property owner, and the injured party.
When it comes to keeping a swimming pool inaccessible by small children, both the parent and the property owner can be held responsible for any negligence that occurs.
A property owner must follow specific city and state codes specifying how high the latch for a fence or gate leading to a swimming pool must be. If the latch isn’t high enough, or if it fails, the property owner could be found negligent if a small child breaches the pool and drowns.
However, homeowner responsibility doesn’t absolve the role or responsibility of the parent. It’s common for parental absence or distraction to lead to a drowning or near-drowning of a young child. In the time it takes to swap a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer, a child could fall into a pool and drown.
Keep your property safe.
If you own a property with a pool, even if you don’t expect to have children in your home, it’s always a good idea to be on the lookout for hazards around the pool. Loose or missing pavers, bricks, or foreign or unattended objects lying around the pool could case someone to trip or fall into the pool.
Double-check your gate or fence latches, and make sure they are “self-closing” to prevent neighborhood children from accessing your property.
If you own a property with a pool and have small children, or, if you are visiting a friend or family who has a pool with your small children, it’s a good idea to double-check the barriers surrounding the pool. Also double-check the safety mechanisms you have around the home, including the child-safety locks on door and screens.
Make sure the required “pool alarms” on doors and windows are property installed and functioning.
Be prepared in the event of a drowning emergency.
All the precautions in the world will not prevent every instance of a child gaining unsupervised access to a pool, so it’s important that you are prepared in the event of an emergency. If a child does fall into a pool, retrieve the child, call 911, and begin performing CPR.
“Near-drownings” is a term used to describe a situation in which a child is submerged under water for long enough to cause injury, but hasn’t fully succumbed to drowning. A child may have a pulse, but may not be breathing; or the child is barely breathing. This is called a near-drowning.
Performing CPR and getting emergency help is crucial in the minutes following a near-drowning. The longer a child is without oxygen, the greater the possibly for permanent brain injury to occur.
Before you have that first summer barbeque, it’s a good idea to follow these tips. Stay alert and supervisory when your child is outside, or near a pool; make sure your pool is free of hazards, especially if you have company over; and brush up on your CPR and emergency preparedness. The adherence to any of these safety precautions could be the difference between life and death.
If you or someone you know has suffered the death of a child due to a drowning or near-drowning, contact our law firm for a free confidential consultation. We may be able to help your recover for pain and suffering following a preventable drowning accident.