Vigilance, education will help prevent drownings

By DON HEINZMAN – Gazette Columnist

The recent drowning of a six-year-old at a supervised country club pool points out the need for more vigilance and knowledge on how to save a person from drowning.

Last year there were 50 drowning deaths in Minnesota, 19 of them in Hennepin County. Six persons drown every day in the United States. A third of them are children under 14.

Children from one to four years of age drown more in residential swimming pools. On Wednesday, June 6 there was another tragic example in South Chisago Lake Township in rural Chisago County where a 14-month-old infant girl drowned in the shallow end of an above ground pool.

A recent study of Hennepin County drowning deaths by a task force, revealed that last year the majority of drowning deaths happened in apartment complex pools.

What’s more, the study showed that many of the residents had no idea how to react to a drowning. There isn’t much time to save someone who becomes unconscious after being submerged in water for two minutes or less and brain damaged after being under water four to six minutes.

A new safety coalition, the Twin Cities Metro Water Safety Task Force, is so concerned about drowning deaths that it has conducted three classes on water safety aimed at people who frequent private pools in apartment complexes.

Sara Cwayna, a public safety education specialist for the city of Plymouth, noted that most people do not know the signs of someone drowning.

Those people do not realize that drowning can be quick and silent, contrary to the misconception of victims jumping up and screaming for help. The first reaction of a bystander is to jump into the water and try to save the victim, who may climb on the rescuer’s back causing both to drown.

The task force found there was safety equipment at the pools but no one knew how to use the equipment. They should use the ring buoy or a Shepherd’s hook to save the person.

The task force has put together a CD in English and Spanish on how to prevent drowning deaths. It will be available soon on the video-sharing website YouTube and on demand.

A plastic poster in five languages that can be posted at swimming pools soon will be available at a cost of $65. For information on the CD and poster, call LeeAnn Mortensen at North Memorial Hospital, Injury Prevention: 763-520-4145.

The task force is hoping for donations to buy posters that can be placed in pools throughout the area. This effort deserves your support.

Don Heinzman is an editorial writer and columnist for ECM Inc.