By Ashley Bergner
Newton Kansan
Whether it’s boating out on the lake or a barbecue by a backyard swimming pool, Memorial Day celebrations often involve the water. Although these activities may seem like the perfect way to kick off the summer, they can turn deadly if safety rules aren’t followed.
The danger is particularly great for children, and Newton firefighter/paramedic Faber Porter said children should never be allowed to play in the water unsupervised.
“If you’ve got young children, you can’t let them out of your sight, even for a second,” he said.
According to Safe Kids Kansas, drowning is the second highest cause of unintentional death for children ages 1 to 4 and 10 to 14 in the United States. Overall, about 830 children ages 14 and  younger die each year due to unintentional drownings. From 2000 to 2009, there were 73 unintentional drowning-related deaths in Kansas, ages 14 years and younger. Three-quarters of those deaths occurred in children ages 3 and younger.
“Kids drown quickly and quietly,” Cherie Sage, state director for Safe Kids Kansas, said in a news release. “A drowning child cannot cry or shout for help. The most important precaution for parents is active supervision. Simply being near your child is not necessarily supervising.”
To help keep kids safe, Safe Kids Kansas recommends taking these precautions:

Always actively supervise children in and around water. Don’t leave, even for a moment. Stay where you can see, hear and reach children in the water. Avoid talking on the phone, preparing a meal, reading and other distractions. A pool or spa should be surrounded on all four sides by a fence at least five feet high with gates that close and latch automatically. A pool or spa should be equipped with an anti-entrapment drain cover and a safety vacuum release system to prevent children from being caught in the suction of the drain. The powerful suction forces can trap a child underwater or cause internal injuries.  Don’t leave toys in or near the pool, where they could attract unsupervised children. For extra protection, consider a pool alarm and alarms on the doors, windows and gates leading to the pool. Enroll children in swimming lessons around age 4, but don’t assume swimming lessons make a child immune to drowning. Don’t rely on inflatable swimming toys such as “water wings” and noodles. If your child can’t swim, stay within arm’s reach.  Learn infant and child CPR. Keep rescue equipment, a phone and emergency numbers by the pool.

These guidelines apply to inflatable and portable pools, not just in-ground pools. Safe Kids Kansas reports a child can drown in just an inch of water. Kiddie pools should be emptied and stored out of reach when not in use.

Other water safety tips

Porter also urges adults to be careful in the water. You should always have a life jacket with you when boating. Even if you can swim, a boat could knock you unconscious if it tips over. Drinking and boating also is another no-no, Porter said. If you do plan to consume alcohol on the lake, make sure you have a “designated boat driver.”

For more safety tips, visit www.safekids.org.