Pool safety: Is there a killer in your backyard?

Drowning is the leading cause of death among Florida preschoolers.  Most of those deaths, about 70 percent, occur in home swimming pools.

“When you move into a house, and it has a pool, you have to take responsibility,” said Kim Burgess, Drowning Prevention Coordinator for Broward County. “Parents will put their child in a car seat, wear a seat belt, and lock up their loaded guns, but they won’t get serious about pool safety.”

For several years, Miami-Dade and Broward have ranked in the top five counties in Florida for the most accidental drownings. In 2009, there were 47 accidental drownings in Miami-Dade and 45 in Broward, according to the counties’ medical examiners.

The Sunshine State leads the nation in drowning deaths of kids ages 1 to 4, according to the Florida Department of Health.

The saddest part of that statistic is that it is preventable, said Anthoni Llau, an injury epidemiologist with the Miami-Dade County Health Department.

“The biggest non-fear parents have is, ‘What could possibly happen in the safety of our home?’” said Matthew Berman, executive director of Swim Central, which tracks swimming lessons in Broward. “People need to realize that an unguarded pool plus nonsupervision is the equivalent of a loaded weapon in their own home.”

Most young children drown by falling in an unattended swimming pool, while a parent is distracted by a phone call or household duties.

“Parents think they will hear a scream if their child falls in the pool, but the opposite is true,” Llau said. “Drowning is the silent killer. Water fills their air passages and they can’t make a sound.”

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