Swimming pool parties and days at the beach brighten the summer for many Florida families. But whether you are headed to the pool or the beach, it’s important to take steps to make sure your children stay safe when they are in or around water.

Drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1-4, according to the Florida Department of Health. Florida leads the nation in drowning deaths for children 5 and under,

Officials say that the number children who drown in Florida annually could fill four preschool classrooms. Terrible drowning accidents happen throughout the year because of the state’s warm weather, but most take place in the spring and summer.

The most frightening thing about accidental drownings is that they happen quickly and quietly. It doesn’t take much water or time. A small child can drown in less than two inches of water, and young children can slip away from adults and go under the water, never to come back up alive, in fewer than five minutes.

The Department of Health also notes that 25 percent of drownings take place in swimming pools when adults are present  but aren’t paying attention to children. Floridians under age 10 are most likely to drown in a swimming pool while those 10 and older are most likely to drown in a natural body of water.

According to the Florida Injury Facts, in 2011:

  • Florida had 447 drowning deaths and 320 hospitalizations from near-drownings.
  • Children ages 1 to 4 made up 14 percent of the deaths and 31 percent of the near-drownings that required hospitalization.
  • Among drowning victims who were age 5 or younger, 66 percent drowned in a swimming pool, 6 percent in a bathtub and 12 percent in a natural body of water.
  • Among victims ages 5-9, 20 percent drowned in a natural or open body of water, 20 percent in a pool and 60 percent were undetermined.
  • Among victims ages 10 and older, 37 percent drowned in a natural body of water and 16 percent in a swimming pool.

As the peak swimming season kicks off in Florida, here are some tips to prevent accidental drowning:

  • Put an alarm on the fence gate or door to your swimming pool to give yourself another level of security and stop children from sneaking into the pool.
  • When you’re having a pool party or family get-together, designate a pool watcher who is responsible for keeping an eye on children in every part of the pool. Don’t assume that everyone’s OK because a lot of people are around.
  • Never leave children alone in a bathtub.
  • Install a free-standing fence, separate from the house, around your pool. It should be at least 48 inches tall and equipped with a locking mechanism.
  • Learn CPR. For each minute CPR is not used, a person’s survival rate diminishes by 10 percent, according to the American Red Cross.

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