Southern Nevada officials make splash about pool safety

It’s that time of year, when the sun’s powerful rays bake anything in their path.

The sweat soaks through your shirt. The car becomes a slow cooker. The heat radiates from the valley’s sidewalks and roadways in tiny rippling waves so hot they blur your long-distance vision.

Even the shade from trees and buildings can’t block out the feeling that you’re walking into an open oven. The best way to get out from under that broiler? Take a dip in the nearest swimming pool.

But escaping the sizzling summer heat can be dangerous for children left unsupervised. Southern Nevada averages eight child drownings per year. That’s why the valley’s fire departments have crafted drowning awareness campaigns to spread the word about pool safety.

In North Las Vegas, fire department officials have launched the Children Drown Without a Sound — Take A Second — Protect A Child campaign.

The city participated in April Pool’s Day to raise awareness about pool safety.

The program’s adult pool patrol provides safety tips and stresses the importance of never leaving children unattended in or around water, calling for help should an emergency occur and keeping rescue equipment on hand.

Water wings and inflatable toys are not considered to be flotation devices. According to the program’s brochure, the majority of drowning deaths occur in the family pool, with 70 percent of the incidents occurring between 2 and 8 p.m.

In 2009, there were four drowning deaths of children younger than 4 in North Las Vegas.

The Southern Nevada Health District, the Safe Kids Coalition and fire departments from Clark County, Las Vegas and Henderson also participate in the program.

There is no federal or Nevada pool fence law in place, but some other states, including California, Arizona and Florida, have created their own. Some counties have pool fence laws where no state law exists.

In Las Vegas, there have been two incidents — one fatal, said Tim Szymanski, Las Vegas Fire & Rescue spokesman.

“It only takes a second for this to occur,” Szymanski said. “It’s silent. The kids glide into the water because they’re so lightweight, and they don’t make a splashing sound. They won’t kick or scream because this is a new experience to them. They don’t know how to interpret it. … They glide right in and go right down to the bottom.”

In Henderson, firefighters went door to door and produced a public service television announcement as part of an aggressive campaign to prevent child drowning.

Last month, the team of firefighters and volunteers from the Southern Nevada American Red Cross handed out information on pool and spa safety.

“Go around and look at all the breeches,” Szymanski said. “Don’t underestimate a kid. You have to constantly keep watching them. If kids are quiet for a second, there’s something wrong going on. Usually, they’re making noise, and you can tell where they’re at. Sometimes, those are situations where death can be occurring right at that instant.”

There are about 21,000 swimming pools in the city. About 26 percent of single-family homes in Henderson have a backyard pool.

Szymanski said swimming pool accidents are preventable. The city and the Southern Nevada American Red Cross offer swimming classes.

“People should teach their children how to swim,” he said. “It’s a life saving procedure they can learn.”

Contact Downtown and North Las Vegas View reporter Kristi Jourdan at kjourdan@viewnews.com or 383-0492.

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