Take steps to prevent childhood drowning

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 2, 2004

Special to the News-Herald

Yesterday kicked off National SAFE KIDS Week, whose spotlight this year is placed on an important issue for recreational boaters – ways to prevent childhood drownings and near-drownings. The campaigns 2004 slogan is &uot;Splash into Safety&uot;.

As the weather continues to get warmer, and more and more recreational boaters hit the water, the need to reinforce how important drowning and near-drowning prevention techniques are becomes more important than ever. In fact boat owners, who are going to have children onboard as crew or guests, need to make sure every precaution has been taken to ensure there safety.

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According to the SAFE-KIDS.org Web site, &uot;Childhood drownings and near-drownings can happen in a matter of seconds and typically occur when a child is left unattended or during a brief lapse in supervision.

Two minutes following submersion, a child will lose consciousness. Irreversible brain damage occurs after four to six minutes and determines the immediate and long-term survival of a child.&uot;

So what is a boat owner or operator to do? Actually, there are a couple of very easy precautions that will help reduce the potential for drowning during a boating trip. Consider the following:

1. Before you get underway make sure all guests know the vessel. Special emphasis should be placed on locations that may be slippery or present more exposure to the seas.

2. If the weather is rough make sure your guests are protected and if a significant wave hits the boat make sure there are adequate hand holds for stability.

3. Make sure the Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) onboard are approved by the Coast Guard and fit the children. As you get underway make sure they are in their PFDs are on and correctly tightened.

Additionally, everyone on-board needs to know the signs that some one may be drowning. According to BoatSafe.com, one of the best Web site for boaters on the world wide web, most drownings occur 10 feet or less from safety, and roughly 60 percent of the time another person is both witnessing and in a position to rescue the victim. Think about that – 60 percent! I have to admit that when I was researching this column that number just jumped out at me.

Still more dramatic are comments from SafeBoat.org that indicated that would-be rescuers are often not aware that someone is in trouble because they don’t know the classic &uot;signs.&uot; What type of signs does SafeBoat recommend you look for? Here are two which should be considered.

The first is that a potential victims’ head is tiled backward with their mouth partially or completely open. By the mouth being open an airway for the victim exists however there are no words or sounds being emitted?

Besides the head being tilted backward, the victim’s head can be bobbing up and down – coming to the surface then thinking below.

The National SAFE KIDS Campaign has done all boaters a favor, even if they never mention boating. Since 1988 this first and only national non-profit organization, which is dedicated to the prevention of unintentional childhood injury. Has done a great job of spotlighting all sorts of accidents which can be prevented.

Concluded the SAFE KIDS Web site, &uot;The Campaign’s aim is to stimulate changes in attitudes, behavior and the environment. From its inception, the Campaign has relied on developing injury prevention strategies that work in the real world – conducting public outreach and awareness campaigns, stimulating hands-on grassroots activity and working to make injury prevention a public policy priority.&uot;

The National SAFE KIDS week, putting a spotlight on ways to prevent accidents…in kids. Until next week…boat safe… and boat smart!