The sudden onset of warm weather is cause for alarm for water safety officials in Sacramento County. Over the weekend, a 6-year-old boy drowned in a swimming pool in Citrus Heights, and a 9-year-old child barely escaped after he was revived after being found at the bottom of a pool.
While warnings came this spring about the swift and cold water in local rivers and streams, more people are at risk in backyard pools, tubs and spas. A study of child deaths in Sacramento County from 2000 to 2008 show 57 child drownings, 70% of them in backyard pools or spas. Most of them were 6 years old or younger.
"Water is water, there is no oxygen in water," said Sacramento Aquatics Supervisor Terri Matal. The city opened it's Johnston Park pool for recreational use Monday, one of six pools and five wading pools the city will operate this summer. Lifeguards kept a watchful eye on swimmers, but Matal encourages parents to keep an eye out even in public pools.
That's what Anita Martinez was doing while her 9-year-old daughter. "I always have to keep an eye on her," said Martinez. She prefers city pools to the river because you don't need life vests and it has life guards. But she also prefers them over backyard pools because she says adults sometimes don't pay attention.
Matal agrees. "A parent often overestimates their child's ability to swim. They might go inside to answer the phone and it oly takes a couple of seconds for a child to slip under," said Matal.
She also says anyone who is drowning gasps for air and cannot yell for help. Drowning kids often look like they're just splashing around and playing. Lifeguards are trained to look for key signs of drowning, while most adults are not.
Barriers like netting or fencing can keep toddlers out of pools. A portable phone should be nearby and large blow toys should be kept out of the water to enhance visibility. Swim lessons are the best insurance against a child drowning and knowing CPR is also advised.