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Kids and Pools: Disaster Can Be Split-Second Away

June 29, 1997

The article "A Clear and Present Danger" by Dan Gordon (June 15) was particularly poignant because three days before it appeared, I had a very frightening experience with my 2 1/2-year-old son.

We installed a special pool fence long before our son could walk. We felt that we had done all the right things and probably got a little too comfortable. I am writing this letter to remind readers that you cannot get too lackadaisical when it comes to pool safety because accidents can happen within seconds.

Well, I opened our pool fence and let my son stroll in the yard while I was nearby. We have done this many times, and so I let my guard down. Plus I thought that he was now old enough to know to stay away from the edge of the pool.

Anyway, while my back was turned, I barely heard a sound that made me look. To my horror, my son had fallen into the deep end of the pool. As I ran to his rescue, he miraculously pulled himself out of the water (to my surprise in light of the fact that he has not had any swimming lessons). Of course he was frightened, but he was OK and didn't even swallow any water.

I learned a valuable lesson that I would like to share with your readers. Never ever take things for granted. Accidents can and do happen in a split-second.

I feel so fortunate that I learned a valuable lesson without paying a dear price. My heart goes out to those not as fortunate.

CHERYL COOK

Los Angeles

*

There was a very touching, worthwhile and informative article in the Sunday Real Estate section about drownings and pool safety. I am a swimming teacher and saved the article for all my swim students' parents to read as they sit in my backyard.

But I have a question and a comment:

Why was this article in the Real Estate section and not in Life & Style or the first section? Not one of the 25 people who came to my house had read the article. They had glanced at it and thought it had to do with house assessing or the construction of valuable improvements.

Also, if a parent is assigned to be a water watcher for 10 to 15 minutes, and is holding a tag or some other indicator that shows his or her job is to watch for a specified time, a timer needs to be set so that the next person is alerted to relieve the one who is on duty. Otherwise, time flies for everyone else and the watcher can end up getting left there for 30 to 40 minutes.

NAN WOLFE

Via e-mail

*

It is amazing to me that anyone with children would consider owning a pool without a fence.

I am desperately looking to move into a house in the Valley that is bigger than my rental, and I have looked at more than 50 homes. In many of these homes, the pool is right out the back door, no fence and no easy way to fence off the pool.

No matter how nice the house is, I am forced to walk away from these properties as I have a 3 1/2-year-old and an 8-month-old. My 3 1/2-year-old has had some swimming lessons, which has only reinforced my observations. He has no fear of the water and no concept that the water will hurt him. He gleefully jumps right into any pool he sees. Many small children are like this. The concept of death is not in their ability at this time. These accidents are easy to prevent with fences and alarms. Unfortunately, parents don't always realize this danger until it is too late.

I truly feel for all parents who have suffered the loss of a child under these circumstances and am not surprised that the Kerr family became pool safety activists and are trying to educate a population about this. It must be truly frustrating.

MOIRA CLEARY

Reseda

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The "fact" for your fourth "myth" ("A Primer in Pool Mythology") is just not true. Youngsters under 5 who have been properly trained will return to the pool edge if they fall in or are pushed in.

For 20 years, my daughter has taught many youngsters to swim. She says that if they have been taught to return to the pool edge and hang on that they will do it.

With parents watching, she has "accidentally" pushed her trained youngsters of 18 to 24 months of age, playing on the pool deck with others, into the pool and invariably they swim to the pool edge and take hold of it. I have seen it several times.

Many YMCAs across the country have a program often called "Mommy and Me" in which youngsters are taught to swim beginning at 18 months.

IRVIN C. CHAPMAN

Costa Mesa

*

In the "Pool Precautions" box that accompanied "A Clear & Present Danger," you recommend: "Leave a cordless phone near the pool for quick access to 911 emergency service."

As we all know, seconds can mean the difference between life or death. The use of a cordless phone in a drowning or any other life-threatening emergency (especially outdoors) is not recommended for the following reasons:

1. The probability of the person calling 911 traveling beyond the range of the cordless phone, thereby losing communication with 911 and/or not being able to make an initial connection with 911.

2. The probability of receiving interference from other cordless telephones, cellular phones, radio stations, TV stations, etc. that would cause diminished and/or lost communication with 911.

3. The probability of the battery in the cordless phone handset "going dead," making the phone inoperable.

It should be recommended that a "hard-wired" telephone be made available for quick and dependable access to 911 service.

I have experienced all three of the above scenarios and, as a result, the dispatch of emergency medical resources was delayed and I was not able to provide critically needed pre-arrival medical instructions (CPR instruction, etc.) to the caller reporting the life-threatening emergency.

MANUEL L. SOTO JR.

Fire Department

City of Glendale

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