BRANDON - Florida is No. 1 in swimming pool deaths. Most drowning victims are between 1 and 4 years old and out of their parent's sight fewer than five minutes. Every day in America, about 10 people drown, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About five times as many suffer severe brain damage from nearly drowning. "Water is dangerous if you don't know how to swim," said Chuck Burgess, executive director of Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center. "Children see toys in the pool, gates aren't securely locked, they want to get the toy. To them, the water doesn't look any different from the concrete they're walking on."
According to Theresa Hickie, the public is misinformed if people think they'll hear a child fall in the pool. They don't realize how soundless drowning is, said the aquatics director at BSAC. Usually when a child falls into the water, there's no noise, no splash, no struggle. "And it's amazing how many children in Florida don't know how to swim," she said. "It's senseless," Burgess added. "We have the cure: swim lessons, supervision and education. If someone said they had the cure for cancer, would you not take it?" Swimming isn't play, it's not an activity, it's a life skill, said Burgess, who believes Florida's children should be required to learn to swim. He'd like to see Hillsborough County take the lead, subsidize lessons and water-safety education, to show "our county's commitment that we don't want our youth to be a statistic," he said. Youth camps, country clubs and neighborhood associations already have pools where lessons could be taught, he said. Organizations such as Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center, which has a teaching pool that ranges from two- to three-feet deep and a large competition swimming pool, have the necessary facilities and skilled trainers. Lessons for those who can't afford them could be underwritten by endowments and partnerships with professional athletes and local businesses, he suggested. Meanwhile, Burgess urges everyone to learn to swim, teach their children to swim, closely supervise them and know CPR. Year-round swim lessons are available at Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center. Class schedules are listed at www.mybsac.org. For detailed prevention information, visit www.redcross.org and search "water safety." Contact Barbara Routen at [email protected]
TO PREVENT DROWNING
Learn to swim; teach children to swim.
Keep pool barriers securely locked.
Keep toys, floats, balls out of pool area after use.
Supervise young children within arms’ length, even in bathtub.
Supervise children, even if they can swim.
Never swim alone, regardless of age or ability.
Wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life preservers.
Avoid alcohol when participating in activities in or near water.