As stress closes in from all sides, spring, with promises of summer fun, offers welcome relief. Just make sure that your preoccupation with economic crises and pandemic threats does not distract you from the dangers that these warm seasons can bring to your property.
During National Summer Safety Week (May 1-7), we are encouraged to adopt strong water safety habits which automatically kick in when we, or those we love, are near water—at the beach, at the cabin or in the backyard pool. Join this concerted effort to save the more than 400 Canadians who may otherwise drown this year. According to Safe Kids Canada, the equivalent of two classrooms full of children die annually from preventable drowning.
Although the number of fatalities has decreased gradually each year, drowning remains the second leading cause of avoidable death in children under 10 and is an even greater threat to those under age five.
"It only takes seconds for a child to drown, and it is often silent," says Barbara Byers, Public Education Director with the Lifesaving Society, a charitable organization working to prevent drowning and water-related injury. "We urge parents and caregivers to stay within arms' reach of children at all times and to restrict access to the water until they are with their child."
When a child is further away than arms' reach, water is a deadly danger. Distracted briefly by financial worries, the current new health crisis, visitors, iPods or cellphones, parents, siblings or caregivers could discover what experts know—unattended children can drown in a flash in only a few centimetres of water in bathtubs, wading pools, and even buckets. Water wings or floatation devices are not a substitute for hands-on adult supervision.
Pool safety should receive more attention than outdoor decor. Safety design and availability of lifesaving equipment should be the primary consideration when decorating. Almost half of all child drownings occur in swimming pools. Ninety-two per cent of toddlers who drowned or suffered a near-drowning were playing or walking near a backyard pool at the time. The speed and silence with which children can die makes preventative investments essential. When you list your pool-enhanced property for resale, these safety-first features may become important selling benefits.
"It is possible to reduce the number of water-related injuries, including drowning and near drowning," says Barbara Underhill , co-founder of The Stephanie Gaetz KEEPSAFE Foundation. Underhill, who's eight-month-old daughter drowned in a backyard pool 12 years ago, is the founding sponsor of the Lifesaving Society's Swim to Survive Program. "As children move beyond the toddler stage, learning to swim is a necessary life skill. We teach our children bike safety and road safety, but we also need to equip them with the swimming ability necessary for survival."
Drowning can be immediately fatal or death may be delayed, but surviving a drowning does not necessarily mean a return to perfect health. Near-drowning can result in long-term health problems.
"For every child that drowned in 2002–2003, there were 6 to 10 more who almost drowned and required hospitalization," says Margaret Keresteci, former Manager of Clinical Registries at Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). "When you take into account that one in four children in Ontario who experience near-drowning sustain permanent brain damage, you start to get an idea of how vital it is to make water safety a priority."