Swim experts warn of drowning dangers as more families are staying home this summer

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — With more families staying home this summer, they’re also installing new pools or buying inflatable pools.

While a new oasis can be very exciting, it can also become a backyard danger. Swim experts said they’re already learning of an increase in drownings. Melissa McGarvey, Director of Aquatics for the British Swim School, said this year, they’re more eager than ever to encourage parents to get their children into swim lessons to save lives.

“Drowning is silent. It happens in seconds. You don’t have minutes,” said McGarvey.

According to swim experts with the British Swim School, this year, there is a triple threat jeopardizing the safety of our children:

“Lifeguard shortage- The U.S. Lifesaving Association reports a dire shortage of lifeguards with not enough trained eyes on our local neighborhood pools. Inflatable Pool Surge – Stir-crazy parents are buying inflatable pools like crazy, thinking they’re totally safe, and not realizing kids could drown in two feet of water. Surge in ‘Staycation’ Economy – Many local families are vacationing at home during COVID, distracted by work, a book or movie and not watching kids who could wander in bathtubs, backyard pools and unsupervised bodies of water.”

McGarvey added that many parents are now working from home while also taking care of their children, often finding themselves multi-tasking.

“You can’t be on your laptop on a zoom call preoccupied with something from work. Even if you’re outside with your kids in the water you really do have to be 100% paying attention to what’s happening no matter what their skill level is,” said McGarvey.

A new report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission revealed 71 percent of all  U.S. child drowning deaths occur in residential settings, and many are attributed to a gap in adult supervision.

McGarvey said parents should not solely depend on swimmies or life jackets, either.

“They do not replace supervision, and that’s one of the biggest errors we see,” said McGarvey.

She also recommends draining and taking the air out of an inflatable pool when you’re finished, having a secure gate around the pool area, and pulling everything out of the water to deter any wandering and curious children.

“You never want a child reaching for something in the water, so always make sure you’re removing floaties and toys. They’re really, really fun, but we want to make sure that when we’re not using them, they’re out of the pool and away,” said McGarvey.

McGarvey said parents need to talk to their kids about water safety, even if that means showing them a fun animated clip on YouTube. More importantly, she’s urging parents to reach out to their local swim school, adding that at-home lessons may be an option, too.

“We know that if you’re able to put them in some sort of formal lesson, your risk of drowning decreases by 88%,” said McGarvey. 

She said it’s never too late for parents to learn, either.

“Being a strong enough swimmer to get someone out is key,” said McGarvey.

McGarvey said drowning remains the number one killer of children ages one to four.

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