Summer Means Addressing The Child Safety Risks Of Swimming Pools

Three young boys drowned in the swimming pool of a Tennessee hotel in a span of four years.

The first incident took place in 2015, and it involved a four-year-old. The second victim, a seven-year-old boy, drowned in July 2017, and the most recent drowning victim, which occurred in February 2019, was a three-year-old.

In the most recent case, police said the three-year-old child had been left unattended at the hotel's indoor pool along with his six-year-old brother, a five-year-old cousin, and a five-year-old friend. Police said "the child was found and pulled from the pool by other patrons." When responders arrived at the scene, the boy was receiving CPR. He was transported to a health care facility but did not survive.

The family of the seven-year-old boy who drowned in 2017 filed a lawsuit against the owners in 2018. According to the allegations in the lawsuit, the boy was staying at the hotel with his family at the time of the incident. The plaintiffs allege that the facility has a water-themed playground for children and a swimming pool "with no separation between the two."

The plaintiffs allege the owners were aware that children were playing in the area without supervision. The owners, according to the suit, should have known that the water-themed playground and swimming pool were dangerous for use by children without the supervision of an on-duty lifeguard and that employees were not properly trained for such in incidents. Maggie Gregg "Drowning prompts lawsuit against Quality Inn" (Feb. 22, 2019).

Commentary and Checklist

Drowning is a leading cause of death for children ages one to five. It is also the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages one to fourteen. In 2018 alone, there were 2,077 drowning incidents. Of this total, 336 were children under five.

In the three drowning incidents in the article, there were no lifeguards on duty. Having a lifeguard could have prevented the accidents. At the very least, a lifeguard would have insisted, for example, in the most recent incident, that the small children not be left at the pool without a parent or guardian's supervision.

If your organization works with children and provides access to pools either on your property or as part of a program with children, there are many precautions your organization should take:

  • Designate at least one responsible, trained employee, who is lifeguard accredited, to watch young children and other patrons swimming or playing in or around the water. This person should always be close enough to reach a swimmer at all times.
  • The lifeguard should not be involved in any other distracting activities while working, such as using a mobile device, reading, or chatting with coworkers or patrons.
  • Train all employees on cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and on other emergency response procedures.
  • Require parents or guardians supervise children under 12 everywhere on your premises.
  • Require small children to wear approved swimming assistance devices. Foam and air-filled toys such as noodles are not designed to keep swimmers safe.
  • Make sure rescue equipment (ex. poles, rings, and an AED defibrillator device) is close by and in good working order.
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