LOS ANGELES (May 19, 2005) — With Memorial Day weekend, and summer fast approaching, EMS, first responders, and water safety advocates, are bracing for the unthinkable – the unfortunate drowning accidents in backyard swimming pools that annually claim the lives of nearly 500 children under the age of five, and an estimated 2,800 “near-drowning” incidents.1
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports, for every child who drowns, six more children are involved in “near-drowning” incidents – accidents that can lead to permanent neurological damage, life-long disabilities, and leaving the parents with catastrophic medical costs and years of recovery and therapy.
“The family swimming pool is supposed to be the center of fun and recreation,” said Todd Appleman, president and founder of http://www.eSafetyAlert.com, a safety products company that offers the one-of-a-kind Safety Turtle® immersion alarm that sets off a piercing siren the instant a child falls into the water.
“The problem is swimming pools are very dangerous for young children, particularly toddlers. Drowning is the leading cause of death for children under five and is the second leading cause of death for children under 14.”
Appleman feels so strongly about helping to prevent drowning incidents, in 2004 he launched an educational website, http://www.PoolSafetyNetwork.org featuring information about swimming pool safety and numerous links to respected government and non-profit sources.
“We have a long way to go in educating the public,” said Appleman. “Despite extensive local public awareness efforts, and well-funded national public education campaigns aimed at teaching parents, grandparents, and other adults about pool safety and active adult supervision, the number of children drowning each year has remained constant.”
“I am very concerned about child safety on two levels,” said Appleman. “First, parents and adults are not getting the message, or they are not practicing what they know. Second, the exposure for more of these tragedies to occur is daunting as the swimming pool industry continues to grow at a rapid pace.”
Pool and Spa Industry Growing 11.4 Percent
“The swimming pool and hot tub industry is now a booming $20 billion industry – and it is growing – 11.4 percent in just the past two years,” said Appleman. Citing 2004 data recently released by the National Pool and Spa Institute (NPSI), Appleman added, “There are 7.6 million backyard swimming pools in the U.S. and 6.4 million residential hot tubs. This translates into 14.7 million points of exposure.”
NPSI reports 4.6 million of the nation’s residential swimming pools are in-ground structures, a 7.8 % increase since 2002, and 3.7 million swimming pools are above-ground, an 11.6 % increase since 2002. The number of hot tubs and spas has soared from 5.6 million units in 2002, to 6.4 million in 2004, a 14 % increase in two years.
Education and Awareness Still Lacking
“At the same time, public education and awareness programs have not had the impact that safety experts had hoped for,” said Appleman. “We need to be more effective in reaching parents with the messages about active parental supervision and precautions known as ‘layers of protection’ – the barriers that pool owners can put in place to help minimize the danger.”
This gap in awareness, and lack of action among parents, became acutely apparent in 2003 when http://www.eSafetyAlert.com, and Terrapin Communications, the company that designed and markets Safety Turtle, commissioned Harris Interactive to conduct a national poll among adults regarding pool safety and the precautions that can minimize drowning tragedies. Only 19 percent of the parents that responded were aware that drowning is the leading cause of accidental death among children under five. Even worse, only 41 percent of the respondents said they have CPSC recommended “layers of protection” installed around their pools.
Layers of Protection
Layers of protection start with a door chime alarm that sounds when doors leading to the pool area are opened. Most importantly, ASTM-standard fences that completely surround the swimming pool with self-closing access gates equipped with a child-proof alarms are essential. Other layers of protection include an automatic or retracting pool safety cover, and an ASTM approved pool alarm.2
“Barriers help keep children from entering the pool area, or the pool,” said Appleman. “While these layers of protection are crucial for any home where children are present, an alarm such as Safety Turtle, introduced in 1998, is what we consider the ‘last line of defense.’ Should a child find a way into the pool or spa, an alarm sounds the instant the wristband sensor makes contact with the water.”
Research conducted in Arizona indicates the number of drowning incidents in a relative or neighbor’s pool grew from 23 percent in 2002 to 41 percent in 2003.3 This suggests parents need to be extra vigilant whenever visiting homes with swimming pools that may not have layers of protection.
“We are concerned that 41 percent of pool owners are either unaware of what they should be doing to protect children, or they are simply not taking the threat seriously enough,” said Robert Lyons, president of Terrapin Communications, and inventor of Safety Turtle. “We commissioned the Harris poll with the hope of educating parents about the ever present danger a pool poses to young children. A serious accident can unfold in seconds. Many children drown within a few feet of their parents when they speaking on the phone or attending a sibling. They make no sound, and once in the water are not easily visible.”
Active Adult Supervision Is Essential
Parents should never leave their child unattended even for a moment. Drowning is considered a “silent death.” According to many studies, in most cases (90%)4, one or more supervising adults were near-by when the child drowns. Even seconds count in near-drowning incidents.” For example:
* If the child is under water for more than 45 seconds, the victim will require medical assistance.
* After two minutes underwater, the child will lose consciousness and will need emergency medical treatment. About one-third of the children who are comatose when EMS first responders arrive, will suffer some level of neurological damage.
* After five minutes, the child will need CPR and may have irreversible neurological brain damage. Medical costs for these victims can be $75,000 for initial emergency room treatment and as much as $230,000 annually for long-term care. Medical costs can exceed $5 million. About 15 percent of these victims ultimately die.
* Only about 10 percent of children who are found underwater after 10 minutes survive.5
Safety Turtle For Pets
Though largely unreported, accidental drowning of family pets in residential swimming pools is common. Pet advocacy organizations believe up to 5,000 family pets perish in swimming pools each year.
“Both the numbers, and the circumstances of the pet drowning stories I have learned of over five years, leave me with no doubt,” said Lyons. “With a half million new swimming pools being built each year, the risk is growing. There are roughly 58 million dogs and 62 million cats in North America. If 5,000 pets are drowning each year, action is long overdue.”
Although healthy dogs and cats can swim short distances, escape from a pool may be a life and death struggle. Barking is sometimes difficult once the dog is in the water. The untrained animal instinctively heads for the nearest edge of the pool and tries to claw its way out. Panic quickly leads to exhaustion. While animals can be trained to go the shallow end, or the steps, climbing to safety may be impossible for smaller animals. Vinyl-liner pools offer no grip to the animal, and often include only a vertical ladder, which is nearly impossible for most pets to climb.
About eSafetyAlert.com and Safety Turtle®
eSafetyAlert.com is an official reseller of the Safety Turtle6 alarm, the only system of its kind that alerts parents and/or pet owners when a child or pet falls into the pool or any water hazard such as a koi pond, stream, or in the water at a lake cottage. Considered to be the last line of defense, Safety Turtle consists of one AC-powered Base Station that supports one or more Turtle wristbands of the same color which lock snuggly on a child’s wrist with a “child-proof” key, or they can be attached to a pet’s collar. If the child or pet falls into the water, the Turtle sensor sends a signal to Base Station which sounds a siren that continues until the system is reset. A mobile battery pack is also available to power the Base Station where AC is not available, e.g., at a shoreline, on a boat, or by a hotel pool.
Information about Safety Turtle is available at http://www.eSafetyAlert.com. For more information about pool safety, visit http://www.PoolSafetyNetwork.org or call 1-800-892-9551.
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1 Centers for Disease Control, The Consumer Protect Safety Commission
2 The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals, The National Pool and Spa Institute, The Consumer Products Safety Commission, ASTM International
3 National Safe Kids Campaign Study
4 Children’s Safety Zone, Arizona
5 American Pediatrics Association
6 Safety Turtle has been tested by the Consumer Products Safety Commission and The Good Housekeeping Institute