Summer increases the risk of children drowning | June 19, 2009 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Perspective - June 19, 2009

Summer increases the risk of children drowning

It's not even officially summer and one child has already drowned in Contra Costa County, a 2-year-old girl in Concord last week who was discovered by her parents. Let's all be aware of the dangers of drowning as we head into the sunny season and swimming pools beckon to adventurous children.

The Drowning Prevention Foundation, which is located in Alamo, lists some alarming statistics:

* 50 percent of deaths by drowning occur in residential pools;

* 65 percent of the children were at their own home;

* 46 percent were last seen safe inside the house just before the drowning; and

* 72 percent had direct access to the pool once outside.

The foundation states that constant supervision is not enough to prevent drowning and recommends "layers" of protection, including a fence that cannot be climbed with a self-closing, self-latching gate, alarm systems, powered safety pool covers and self-closing, self-latching doors with automatic sliding door closers. Thirty-five percent of residential drownings are not at the home of the victim so even if there are no children in residence, layers are important. Studies also show that conscientious parents were almost always present when drownings occurred.

The Drowning Prevention Foundation was begun by Nadina Riggsbee, then an Alamo resident, who left her children, Samira, 2, and JJ, 1, with a babysitter while she and her husband went out to dinner in 1978. The babysitter felt sick and went to the bathroom, leaving the children in the family room. She returned 15 minutes later to find the sliding door open and the children floating face down in the pool. Samira was dead and JJ was severely brain injured.

Nadina brought JJ home to care for him, despite his quadriplegia, severe brain damage and tracheal tube that necessitated 24-hour care, and she began to advocate for him to be in school when he got older. In addition, drowning prevention became her passion after she realized drowning was the leading cause of death in California for children ages 1-4. Due to her efforts, Contra Costa County was the first to pass a residential swimming pool ordinance in 1983, and her foundation sponsored the state's 1996 Swimming Pool Act that requires home swimming pools built in or after 1998 to comply with safety standards. She also works to educate parents about other places where children drown, including spas, bathtubs, barrels and 5-gallon pails. She also knows of at least 85 drowning deaths with bathtub ring devices where the suction cups came loose, the children pushed up and fell forward and drowned.

Despite the educational work done by the Drowning Prevention Foundation in the last 25 years, drowning is still the leading cause of death for little children in California. Don't let it happen in your home or to your children.