COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — As pool season begins for several Columbus locations this weekend, safety experts are urging parents to keep an eye on their children.
Five instances of water rescues or drowning were reported in central Ohio over the last week. A two-year-old girl drowned in Coshocton County last Friday. Then, two children were rushed to hospitals after rescues on Wednesday.
A few days ago, a Newark boy was found unresponsive in a swimming pool. The two-year-old was pulled out and given CPR by his father until EMS arrived. The boy as flown to Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
At Columbus pools, pool manager Derrick Martin said they have a rule for parents and guardians.
“If your child is eight and under, you need to be within arm’s reach of your child at all times,” said Martin. “And I always remind parents that even if your child is a little older that you need to keep an active eye on your child at all times.”
Martin, who is a former Marine rescue swimmer, encourages everyone to use that same rule when hanging out by the water his summer.
“If you have a kid go missing the first place you need to check is the water first before you start looking for that kid,” he said. “It’s very easy for a child to slip in and slip under and it can be a very quiet thing.”
Columbus Public Health Commissioner Mysheika W. Roberts is also warning about water safety this summer.
“Unintentional drowning is the leading cause of death for individuals between the ages, or under age four,” she said. “We aren’t asking for everyone to be an Olympic swimmer. But kids, teenagers, everyone going into the pool should have some basic pool and swimming lessons so they can survive in the water.”
“It’s also important that If you’re going to be around the pool, you know basic CPR,” Roberts said.
“It can be learned on YouTube in about 10 minutes,” said Martin. “Now you won’t be certified, but that can give you some critical lifesaving information. Outside of that, if you pull somebody out of the water you want to give them two breaths as quickly as possible, and then start compressions.”
“It’s not a very complex training method or anything like that, but it is very effective,” said Martin. “And it may be the only thing standing between that person and life or death.”
Even if you’re not CPR certified, Martin said you should still attempt CPR in an emergency.
“If you have a drowning victim, that person is not breathing and potentially does not have a pulse, and they need help immediately,” he said.
Vigilance is another thing both experts explained can prevent tragedy from happening.
“You shouldn’t be drinking, you shouldn’t be distracted by your phone, and you should really pay attention to people in the pool and maybe even the kids playing around the pool,” said Roberts.
Martin said familiarity with water can help children, but it doesn’t necessarily mean every child who can swim is a strong swimmer.
“A child knowing how to swim doesn’t mean that child doesn’t need to be supervised while they’re swimming,” he said. “I do recommend introducing children to water as early as possible so that they don’t develop a fear. They might be very comfortable with the water. So, you need to make sure that you always keep an active eye on them because they might not know the dangers that await them when they don’t know how to swim. Because they’re so used to having someone there supporting them when they’re in the water.”
Martin also warned about parents and others attempting to be a hero.
“If you don’t have the capacity to save yourself, you can’t save someone else. So, if you’re not a swimmer and you see someone drowning in 12 feet of water, you are jumping in to save them is going to lead to two drownings instead of one,” he said. “Parental instinct, you see that kid drowning, you’re in the water, you can’t swim either. It’s not going to magically occur for you in that moment.”
When swimming to get someone isn’t an option and they’re struggling, Martin suggests using the things around you.
“You need to find something that they can latch on to,” he said. “So, if you have a shepherd’s crook, a buoy, a long stick, anything that you can reach out to that person for them to grab on. And make sure you’re in a low supported position and then pull them to the side. But don’t just go jumping into water that you can’t stand up in if you don’t know how to swim.”
Swimming lessons are always available through Columbus Parks and Recreation. Roberts said water safety should be something all parents teach their kids, even if they don’t grow up around a pool or body of water.
“We need to teach our kids the same safety measures we teach them about crossing the street, looking both ways, we need to teach the same thing about water,” she said. “And that’s not just a pool or waterfall, but also retention ponds. We should really make our kids fearful of going into those areas whether they can swim or not.”
Dr. Roberts explained that the COVID pandemic has been difficult for very young swimmers as well.
“There’s also been some growth and developments delays, right. For our young kids from not being in the classroom, not getting to go to swim class, not being able to go to summer camp. We’ve got some catching up to do,” she said.