The Calhoun-Cleburne Children’s Center and Alabama Marine Police want to ensure parents are aware of how to keep their children safe during water activities.
Joe Nabors, executive director of the Children’s Center, said Calhoun and Cleburne counties have had three children ages 5 and under and two teenagers die in drowning accidents since 2008.
“One is too many,” Nabors said. “Especially with something that is preventable.”
Nabors said members of the Calhoun County Child’s Policy Council believe adults need to be more informed about drowning prevention. A study found that many drowning deaths occurred while children were under the supervision of grandparents or aunts and uncles, Nabors said.
“Someone who normally doesn’t have control of the child and they don’t realize it just takes a second,” Nabors said.
Alabama Marine police Sgt. Kim Moeller said it’s important for adults to never leave children unattended near water.
“Kids love water. They’re going to run to it,” Moeller said.
Moeller said adults should also be familiar with the water, especially before allowing children or themselves to jump in. The sergeant said life vests should be worn by children while fishing and swimming, not just during a boat ride.
If a child or teen is drowning, Moeller said, parents need to be well versed in how to rescue them.
“So often we have multiple fatalities because someone has gone in after the child and they don’t know how to swim themselves. It becomes a double tragic incident,” Moeller said.
The sergeant said she teaches parents to “Reach, Throw, Row, Go”
The first step is to reach something out to the child that they could grab onto for safety, Moeller said. Parents should throw something that will float, whether that be a ball, life vest or cooler. If the child is farther out and can’t be reached, the parent should get on something that floats and paddle out to the child. The last resort is to swim to the child.
“If you’re not trained in water safety you don’t know how a drowning person will react,” she said.
Nabors said it’s also common this time of year for many high school seniors to drown, especially during graduation parties.
“They now feel they’re adults and sometimes they will overestimate their abilities,” Nabors said. “Many times it’s not alcohol. It’s a situation where they think they can swim farther than they can.”
Moeller said parents also need to emphasize teaching their children how to swim.
“I don’t see that pushed anymore and the YMCA is still there teaching swim lessons,” the sergeant said.
Nabors noted that even if a child is a competent swimmer they still need to be supervised. A good precaution is to always have more than one adult present while a child is playing in the water, Nabors said. The more eyes available to watch the child, the safer they’ll be.
Staff Writer Rachael Brown: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RGriffin_Star.