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Summer Brings Warnings About Dangers of Drowning

July 07, 1994|LISA O'NEILL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When 2-year-old Rebecca Boice drowned last month in her grandparents' Claremont swimming pool, she became the third toddler in three days to die in a pool in the Los Angeles area.

Along with the season of hot, sunny days comes increased danger for young children near swimming pools.

Last year, 36 children younger than 5 drowned in Los Angeles County, according to statistics from the County Health Department. For every child who drowns, many others suffer from a near-drowning episode, said Billie Weiss, a Los Angeles County Health Department epidemiologist and director of the department's injury and violence prevention program.

Drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 5 in California, Weiss said, adding that most of the deaths occur in back-yard swimming pools.

"People see a pool as recreation," Weiss said. "They don't see it as a risk for young children."

Weiss recommends creating layers of protection for a child:

* Put a barrier fence between the house and the pool. The fence should contain self-closing, self-latching gates and should have vertical openings no wider than four inches. The fence should be at least 50 inches high and the latching device should be located where children cannot reach it.

* Install an approved pool cover with a lock, and keep it closed and locked when the pool is not in use.

* Keep lifesaving devices, such as lifesaving rings and a long stick with a hook on it, near the pool in case a child falls in.

* Keep a phone in the pool area so you don't have to go inside to answer the phone and so you can call 911 immediately if necessary.

* Learn CPR. "Had somebody at the (Claremont) scene known CPR . . . maybe that could have made the difference," Claremont Police Lt. Ted Kamena said of Rebecca's June 8 death.

* Don't rely on the child's swimming expertise. Children who know how to swim often don't remember when they fall in the water. Twenty-five percent of the children who drown have had swimming lessons.

* Never leave a child alone in or near a pool, bathtub or any body of water. All caretakers should know how to swim and know water rescue techniques.

The San Gabriel Valley Drowning Prevention Task Force offers literature on the subject. Information: (818) 814-8811.

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