Photo: Sacramento Bee
With summer just around the corner, Sacramento-area residents are looking to relax and cool off as the temperature rises. Yet as much as we enjoy swimming under the summer sun, it's also important to keep safety in mind - to avoid serious injury or death.
As it stands, Sacramento has the highest drowning rate per capita among the counties of Northern California. Swimming pools, as well as the Sacramento and American Rivers and other waterways, can pose a significant drowning danger to children. From 1990 to 2009, the Sacramento County Child Death Review Team established, over 50% of child drownings were in residential pools, while another 20% occurred in rivers. 60% of these deaths were of children under age 5.
With children and water, it seems all too easy for tragedy to strike. On May 9th, 15-year-old Jay Wells was last seen alive diving into the Sacramento River. His body was found four hours later by divers. Jay, who was not wearing a life vest, was probably swept under by a strong current, stated Leslie Robinson, vice president of the Sacramento Drowning Accident Rescue Team (DART). Jay Wells will be forever remembered and loved by his family. What steps can we take to prevent similar tragedies from taking place in the future?
First off, it's mandatory for children under 13 to wear a life vest in the river or other free-flowing bodies of water. It's a good idea for teenagers and even adults to do the same. Despite what may look like a calm river surface, undertows can easily overpower even the strongest of swimmers. Also, watch out for obstacles like tree branches and rocks that could lead to injury - don't dive where there could be hidden dangers.
For pool safety, remember the "ABC" rule: Adult Supervision, Barriers, and Classes. Children age 5 and under should always be supervised, and it's advisable to keep a close watch on those well over five. Fences and gates with locks are also necessary to keep small children from wandering into a swimming pool. To increase your child's safety, have them take swimming lessons so they know how to get out if they fall into the pool.
Adult supervision is key to protecting children from harm, and keep in mind that they might need you when it counts the most. Don't over-consume alcohol, and remember to be attentive: don't text on your phone. Only jump into the water as a last resort; start by offering a victim an arm, a rope, or a floatation device. If you remember one thing, your responsible behavior can save a child's life, so stay safe in the water.