FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Many of our best South Florida summer memories start with water. From crystal blue backyard swimming pools to the rolling waves of the Atlantic Ocean, Broward County residents always enjoy the area's countless boating, swimming and fishing opportunities. But each year, more than a few happy memories are marred by needless drowning accidents. In Florida, drowning is the leading cause of death for children under age 4.
Children are naturally attracted to water. If adults turn their heads for a moment, a toddler can silently slip underwater. If dad's attention is diverted by a ringing phone, or grandma steps away to stir the soup cooking on the stove, it's enough time for a curious little one to wander out a back door and fall in the pool. Often, it's a silent process. There is rarely a loud splash or a scream.
As part of the Broward Sheriff's Office's "SPLASH" initiative, which stands for Supervise, Protection, Lessons, Alarms, Search, Help, the agency is reinforcing our efforts to stop these entirely preventable tragedies. The program, which is specifically designed by first responders, educates families to:
- Always supervise children around any body of water – keeping children within touching distance.
- Utilize layers of protection around pools, including fences with self-closing gates, pool covers and locks on gates and doors.
- Children should have swim lessons as soon as they are able to crawl.
- All doors leading to bodies of water should have audible alarms to indicate when they are opened.
- Any time a child is missing, immediately search all bodies of water first. Do not just scan. Thoroughly look.
- Call for help by dialing 911 immediately. Every second counts, so use the phone while checking bodies of water.
Although more young children drown in swimming pools in Broward County than in the ocean, it's smart to take a few simple precautions when boating, as well. Children should always wear personal floatation devices on boats. Accidents happen fast, and children often end up in the water – sometimes without an able adult around to help. Personal flotation devices are often the difference between life and death for boaters – especially children.
Also, remember to always let friends and family members know your "float plan," which is basically a description of your boat, where you plan to go on the water, who will be with you and when you'll be returning. If something goes wrong and you fail to return as expected, they can notify authorities with that valuable information.
As always, you can stay up to date about BSO news and information by visiting our website at www.sheriff.org, become a fan of our Facebook page (Broward Sheriff's Office – Official), follow us on Twitter@browardsheriff or sign up for our CyberVisor program.
Copyright 2012 by Post Newsweek. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.