State officials caution parents to watch children carefully around bodies of water
INDIANAPOLIS – As the summer months get hotter, Indiana families will be flocking to local pools, lakes and reservoirs for recreational water activities. The Indiana Department of Child Services and the Department of Natural Resources remind parents and guardians to make sure they keep a close eye on children playing in or near water.
The most recent Indiana child-fatality data shows that in state fiscal year 2011, 11 Hoosier children died from drowning.
“In nearly all of those cases, there was some lack of supervision,” said Mary Beth Bonaventura, director of the Indiana Department of Child Services. “Children generally don’t have an awareness of the risks around water. It’s up to the adults who care for them to help keep them safe.”
Swimming and other recreational water activities are a great way for Indiana children to remain active and in good health through the summer months, but parents and guardians must be watchful of children participating in water activities and must be aware of the signs of drowning.
“The Indiana Department of Natural Resources encourages parents to equip their children with proper fitting life-jackets when enjoying Indiana’s waterways and DNR properties this summer,” said DNR Director Cameron Clark.
DNR reports 27 open water drownings so far in 2013, with three of the victims being 18 years old and younger.
While millions of children and adults swim safely without incident, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that accidental drowning is the second largest cause of death among children ages 14 and younger.
Accidental drownings are preventable. Though lifeguards provide a sense of security, parents and guardians must vigilantly watch their own children - a parent may see something a lifeguard does not. In many cases, lifeguards may not be present, which places more responsibility on parents and guardians to ensure their children’s safety.
“While Indiana Conservation Officers promote water activities as a safe and viable recreational opportunity for our citizens to enjoy, it is vital that safety measures are considered on each trip, without exception,” said Colonel Scotty Wilson, DNR.
State officials offer the following tips to help keep children safe around water this summer:
• Never leave children alone when near or accessible to water, and teach children to ask permission before going near a body of water.
• Never leave a child’s safety around water in the hands of another child. Water safety requires vigilant, adult supervision.
• Ensure the entire family has been properly taught to swim well via a certified water-safety program. Many city parks departments offer these programs.
• Swim in areas with designated lifeguards on duty.
• Always swim with a buddy.
• Have children wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life-jacket—particularly for children with poor swimming skills—and have a life-preserver on hand. DNR strongly recommends that all family members wear a life-jacket while boating on Indiana lakes and waterways.
• Teach children never to dive into oceans, lakes or rivers because they do not know what dangerous structures can lurk under the water’s surface.
Indiana Conservation Officer Boating Law Administrator Lt. Kenton Turner cautions parents that lakes and rivers pose additional risks of unexpected falls into the water because of algae that may be covering rocks. “The only sure and safe way to be prepared is to wear a life-jacket when in and around the water,” said Lt. Turner.
Parents should also familiarize themselves with the signs of drowning. Contrary to the popular image of drowning as a highly visible behavior involving shouting with abrupt movements such as splashing or waving, actual people drowning—including children—do not flail or scream. Parents need to understand what drowning truly looks like and recognize signs of the instinctive drowning response. Drowning doesn’t look like drowning:
• Drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system is designed for breathing and breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help.
• Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface which leverages their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe. They cannot perform voluntary movements such as moving toward a rescuer or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
• From beginning to end of the instinctive drowning response, people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.