The video is heart-wrenching. One by one, parents explain how their child drowned, holding their pictures and saying their names.
It’s part of a public service announcement found on the Parents Preventing Childhood Drowning website, and it’s a call to action: grieving parents pleading with us to keep children from drowning. The message is clear: If you are supervising children who are in the water, never allow yourself to be lulled into a false sense of security. Don’t ever look away. Not even for a second. It takes just 30 seconds for a young child to drown — half a minute that can lead to a lifetime of ceaseless grief.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the leading cause of death for children between ages 1 and 4. Some 4,000 people of all ages across the country drown each year.
For decades, government at all levels has enacted laws intended to help prevent children from drowning. Sadly, these laws have not been enough. More must be done.
There are at least four water safety bills being considered in Albany, including S.3608, which would require parents of a newborn to watch a video explaining the dangers of drowning for infants and young children before they leave the maternity ward. State legislators should pass this bill and get it on Gov. Kathy Hochul’s desk.
And we urge lawmakers to draft legislation providing free pool safety inspections for homeowners and caregivers. Several government agencies already offer free car seat safety inspections. While visiting a home and inspecting a pool is more involved, it certainly is no less critical for protecting children.
At least two water safety experts have agreed that pool safety inspections would help prevent child drownings.
This proposal wouldn’t be another unfunded mandate that drains the resources of local municipalities. Albany has the mechanism to create a pilot program using previously budgeted money from an appropriate department. The pool inspections would be voluntary and conducted by state-licensed pool safety experts.
A pool owner would receive a safety inspection certificate and a degree of peace of mind. Some private companies already offer free pool safety inspections. A government-business partnership would further enhance the reach of this pilot program.
Water safety experts stress the need for constant surveillance of children while swimming. They also insist on multiple layers of protection — tall fences, self-locking gates and more — to prevent kids from getting into unguarded water. Pool safety inspections would offer one more element of safety.
May is National Water Safety Month. There is no better time for local state senators and Assembly members to draft legislation to provide those inspections.
And as you prepare to open your pool for the summer, make it a priority to visit swimming safety websites and educate yourself about making your pool safer, and what you can do if you see a child in distress in the water.
Remember that water safety includes time on the bays and at the ocean. Follow state and local laws for operating watercraft. Be an active supervisor of children and young adults who are enjoying the water. Don’t assume that a day of fun in the sun can’t turn deadly.
The courage and strength of parents able to talk about their children’s deaths is remarkable — and inspiring. Honor that courage and their grief by taking action to make your pool safer.