A pool is a great place for families to have summer fun…but it can also be dangerous. Before you hit the water, read these sobering statistics from the Consumer Product Safety Commission:
- Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death among children ages 1–4;
- In 2016 there were 288 drowning deaths of children under 5;
- June is the deadliest month;
- 72% of drownings occur at residential locations.
The good news is that drowning deaths are preventable. And the single most important thing parents and caregivers can do to keep their children safe around water is at the top of the CPSC’s list of tips: “Never leave a child unattended in or near water.”
Unfortunately, that recommendation fails to address a situation like a pool party. With plenty of people around, adults may not think of babies and toddlers as unattended and vulnerable. The problem is one of faulty assumptions: everyone thinks that someone else is watching the kids until it’s too late.
A simple technique from aviation, the “positive handoff,” can be beneficial, even life-saving. Here’s how it works. When a plane moves from one airspace to the next, air traffic control provides the pilot with the new communication frequency. The pilot confirms the frequency, then checks in with the next set of controllers. ATC and the pilot all know and agree on who is responsible for communication as the flight is handed off from one zone to the next.
Similarly, if there are two or more pilots on a flight, it’s essential to know who is in charge. A pilot who needs to consult a chart or check the weather may say to his or her partner, “Your airplane.” “My airplane” is the confirmation. There is no ambiguity about who is flying the airplane.
Parents can adopt this practice poolside to securely transfer supervision from one adult to another. When it is “your baby,” acknowledge that out loud and take the responsibility seriously. No looking at your phone, no “just running inside for a second,” no goofing around with friends, no doing anything that distracts you from your supervisory obligation. Take turns with other adults so you have time to enjoy the party, too. When your shift is over, the positive handoff makes it clear who is now in charge of a baby or toddler. That eliminates the possibly tragic confusion of the “I thought you were watching him!” “No, I thought YOU were watching him!” scenario.
Use the positive handoff. It’s a simple technique that can keep your child from becoming a drowning victim.
For more pool safety tips from the CPSC, visit https://www.poolsafely.gov/parents/safety-tips/