Water Safety in Summer Months

The warmest months of the year are heading our way and the official start of summer is here. As we cool off and escape the heat, remember the basics of water recreation safety. We live in an area surrounded by water, giving many opportunities for exciting water activities, but also increasing the possibility of injury or drowning. According to the Washington State Department of Health, in Washington, there were 98 unintentional drowning deaths of residents in 2017. In King County, at least 16 people died in preventable drownings in 2018.

A child or weak swimmer can drown in the time it takes to apply sunscreen, reply to a text, or run back into the house for something you forgot.  Drowning and injuries related to water happen every day in pools, hot tubs, lakes, rivers, bathtubs, and even buckets. Fortunately, there are a few things we can do to help mitigate the risks involving water and summer fun.

Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket when boating or fishing, even if you don’t intend to enter the water. A life jacket is one of the most effective pieces of safety gear in or out of a boat. However, it only works if you wear it. Low-cost lifejackets are provided throughout the spring and summer months though King County at a 25% discount (kingcounty.gov). In addition, the Washington State Parks Department has a Life Jacket Loaner Program. The program provides life jackets to designated stations for the public to check out a life jacket for a day or the weekend. Most life jackets are checked out and returned by the end of each day (parks.state.wa.us).

Backyard swimming pools and spas are a great place for the family to relax and have fun. However, it’s important to ensure everyone stays safe in and around the water. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among children ages 1 to 4 years, most drownings occur in residential swimming pools. The CDC reports most young children who drowned in pools were last seen in the home and had been out of sight for less than five minutes. Proper fences, barriers, alarms, and covers can be lifesaving devices. A fence of at least four feet in height should surround the pool or spa on all sides and should not be climbable for children.

During water recreation, always use the buddy system. Make sure you are not alone, or under the influence while participating in water related activities. Lastly, bystanders are often the first to aid a drowning victim, so learning CPR can help save a life. Woodinville Fire & Rescue offers an American Heart Association CPR certification class once a month. If you haven’t been certified, it’s a great opportunity to learn a life-saving skill. Classes are expected to resume sometime in July or once King County enters Phase III of the Safe Start reopening plan.

Window open to fresh air

Warm Weather and Window Safety

The recent warm weather is a welcome addition to the start of spring in the Pacific Northwest. Warmer weather also means hot houses and open windows. Annually, over 5,000 children are injured falling out of open windows. The majority of window falls are children who are 2 – 5 years old. According to the University of Washington Medicine, 40 to 50 children are treated at the Pediatric Trauma Center at Harborview with injuries related to window falls during the summer months every year.

Remember, a window screen is strong enough to keep bugs out but not strong enough to keep children in. When screened windows are open, kids may lean or push against the screen, causing it to pop out of the window frame and the child to tumble out after it. Window screens are not child safety devices.

Now is a great time to check the safety of your windows at home. Properly installed window guards stop a window from opening more than 4 inches and prevent unintentional window falls. Window stops allow for a breeze and still ensure windows can’t open wide enough for kids to fall out. If you are above the first floor, don’t forget to include an emergency release device in case of fire

If you have windows that can open from both top and bottom, make a habit of opening just the top to prevent accidental falls. Keep in mind that as kids grow, they may have enough strength and curiosity to open the bottom, so try to keep windows locked and closed when they are not being used.

Keep your bed and furniture away from windows to keep your crawlers and climbers safe. Move chairs, cribs, and other furniture away from windows to discourage direct access. If you have space, make it a rule to play at least 2 feet from windows.

Window falls are not just a problem for those children who live in high rises. Most window falls occur from modest heights. If a fall does happen, call 911. Never move a child who appears to be seriously injured after a fall; let trained medical personnel move the child with proper precautions. Let’s all enjoy the warmer weather safely and help prevent window falls.