One of the best parts of living in Florida is that fact that we enjoy mild temperatures most of the year. For this reason many of us have a pool at or near our home, or we live near the water. With this luxury comes a responsibility that is sometimes overlooked with tragic results. Last year the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office investigated more than twenty reports of a drowning or near drowning in pools, spas, or Bay Area waterways. Several of these incidents have involved young children, and in some cases the victim has died despite valiant rescue efforts and medical treatment.
I feel it is necessary to offer a reminder to Pinellas County residents and visitors to follow a few basic safety suggestions when living or playing near the water. To begin with, and probably the most important suggestion, never leave your children alone in or near a pool or other body of water, not even for a moment. Many people do not realize that simply teaching your child how to swim DOES NOT mean they are safe in the water. Nothing can replace proper supervision as the most important step to water safety!
It is also important for pool owners to properly secure gates, fences and screened enclosures to ensure that young children cannot wander into the water unsupervised. Remember that a torn screen or open door is an invitation to a curious toddler who will not always recognize the danger inside.
Experts in pool safety recommend the installation of a fence that is at least four feet tall that surrounds a pool on all sides. The fence should completely separate the pool from your home or child's play area. Self-closing gates with latches that are positioned out of a child's reach are also important, and should be considered even if children do not live in your home.
It should be noted that in some cases even properly installed fencing around your pool would not prevent a drowning. For this reason it is also important to keep appropriate rescue equipment and a telephone near the pool. Furthermore it is always a good idea to learn CPR, especially if you are responsible for watching young children around a pool or at the beach.
As warmer weather approaches, I urge each of you to think about safety while enjoying the pool or beach. A small amount of advance planning may prevent a tragedy.
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