In Broward County, nine children ages 4 and younger drowned in 2012, more than any other county in Florida. Four kids 9 and younger drowned in Miami-Dade.
From 2009 to 2011, Miami-Dade and Broward ranked as the top two in a county-by-county comparison of drowning deaths of children 4 and younger by the Florida Department of Health.
The Broward drownings happened in a bathtub, a lake and a canal, with the remainder in backyard pools. All four of the Miami-Dade child drownings happened in pools.
THE SAD STATISTICS• Most drownings occur in residential pools while children are unattended.
• For every child who drowns, four others are hospitalized for near-drowning, and as many as three suffer brain damage.
• Fifteen percent of children admitted for near-drowning die in the hospital.
• Most children who drown in swimming pools were last seen in the home, had been missing from sight for less than five minutes, and were in the care of one or both parents at the time of the drowning.
"There were several drownings in South Florida at pool parties, where no one was watching the kids," said Kim Burgess, Drowning Prevention Coordinator for the Florida Department of Health in Broward. "Our mission is to help people recognize and minimize the risks, because then the chances of drowning are significantly reduced."
Constant supervision is key.
"A drowning can occur in a matter of seconds," said Anthoni Llau, an injury epidemiologist with the Miami-Dade County Health Department. "Most young children who drown in pools were last seen in the house less than five minutes before the accident occurred. Most of the time one or both parents were home."
Even running into the house to answer a phone call could be enough time for a child to drown, he said.
"A common misconception is that a child drowns because of a lack of supervision. In reality, most children drown due to a lapse in supervision," Llau said. "When a child drowns, a parent is usually distracted with other common tasks such as cooking or cleaning. During this time a child can wander off to the pool area without the parents noticing."
This year, Broward health officials will emphasize the "safer pool party" – "Where you designate one person to watch the pool," said Burgess, who is also executive director of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance. "And not a 12-year-old boy, either. It has to be a responsible adult."
Any party where there’s water around is an invitation to tragedy, she said.
"Our emphasis is on 'safer,' everything that they can do to make their family safer – swim lessons, door alarms, a designated adult watching the pool," Burgess said.
Most children who drown have never had a swim lesson, and their parents don’t know CPR, she said.
"There’s a study that showed there’s an 88 percent reduction of risk of drowning for kids who have had swimming lessons. Wouldn’t you get your kids lessons for an 88 percent reduction in risk?"
Both Broward and Miami-Dade counties have free door alarms available for residents. In Broward, email kimberly_burgess @ doh.state.fl.us or call 954-804-4845. In Miami-Dade, alarms are available for residents who live near water and supervise kids age 4 and younger. Call 305-470-5649.
POOL SAFETY TIPS
• Always watch little ones around water. Never leave them alone, even for a moment.
• Install a fence at least four feet high around the pool. The fence should separate the pool from the house and play area of the yard. Use gates that self-close and self-latch, with latches higher than your children's reach.
• Even with pool fencing, your second line of defense should be door locks and alarms. A lock that is located high on the door will make it difficult for a child to get out. A pool alarm will notify you if someone has gotten into your pool, even neighborhood kids.
• Keep rescue equipment (such as a shepherd's hook or life preserver) and a telephone by the pool. Call 911 immediately in an emergency.
• Remove all toys from the pool after use so children aren't tempted to reach for them.
• If you can't find your child and you have a pool, check there first.
• Don't rely on buckles to lock hot tub covers. Some children have unbuckled them, crawled in and drowned under the cover.
- From the American Academy of Pediatrics and The Home Safety Guru
WHERE TO FIND LESSONSBroward County Parks:
Swim lessons are offered at C.B. Smith in Pembroke Pines, Central Broward Regional in Lauderhill and Topeekeegee Yugnee in Hollywood. Classes are held in two-week sessions from early June through mid August. Each session includes eight 30-minute classes and costs $50. Classes are offered for ages 2-10. Individuals with disabilities can call the Special Populations Section at 954-357-8170.
Miami-Dade County Parks:
The Learn to Swim program for preschoolers through adults is taught through American Red Cross-certified water safety instructors. Programs for individuals with disabilities are available. Prices and times vary by park.
Offers lessons year-round:
A.D. Barnes, 3401 SW 72nd Ave., 305-665-1626
Helen Sands, 16350 SW 280th St., 305-248-1386
Palm Springs North, 7901 NW 176th St., 305-558-3762
Rockway, 9460 SW 27th Dr., 305-223-8742
Tamiami, 11201 SW 24th St., 305-223-7077
Offers lessons during the summer:
Arcola, 1680 NW 87th St., 305-691-5104
Gwen Cherry Park, 7090 NW 22 Ave., 305-694-4889
Little River, 10525 NW 24th Ave., 305-696-7651
Naranja, 14150 SW 264th St., 305-258-4534
Richard Pool (Sgt. Joseph Delancy Park), 14450 Boggs Dr., 305-238-5692
Tropical Estates, 10201 SW 48th St., 305-221-5041
Housed at Broward County Parks and Recreation, SWIM Central maintains a database of swim instruction programs by city in Broward.
During the school year, Swim Central provides 10 free 30-minute classes for participating Broward County public elementary schools to learn basic water-safety and swimming skills.
Established in 1999 by the Broward County Commission, the program has more than 130 participating elementary schools that shuttle kids to neighborhood pools for water safety instruction. Some day care centers and summer camps also participate in the program. American Red Cross
The Red Cross offers Learn-To-Swim through parks and pools throughout Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Water safety and drowning prevention skills are built into all swim levels. Classes are offered for preschoolers through adult levels, including those with disabilities. Lifeguarding classes also are available. Prices and schedules vary by location.
The YMCA of Greater Miami and the YMCA of Broward County offer group and private lessons for swimmers of all levels, including classes for those with disabilities. Parent and child lessons are offered for kids ages 6 months to 3 years. The YMCA Safe Start program teaches survival skills for children ages 6 months to 4 years. Lifeguarding and Water safety classes also are offered.
City of Hialeah
Offers a Learn to Swim program at several city pools and has an adaptive aquatics program. The cost is $35 for residents and $50 for non-residents. Call 305-687-2650.
City of Miami
Offers swim lessons from March through November at various city pools. Classes are taught twice weekly in four-week sessions, and are $45 for city residents and $65 for non-residents.
City of Miami Beach
Offers swim lessons at Flamingo Pool, 12th Street and Michigan Ave., 305-673-7750; Normandy Pool, 7030 Trouville Esplanade, 305-993-2021; and Scott Rakow Pool, 2700 Sheridan Ave., 305-673-7767.
Offers swim lessons for ages 12 months and older, including parent-tot, group and private lessons. Classes are taught year-round at Westminster Christian School, 6855 SW 152 St., Miami, and from June to August at Winston Park Clubhouse Pool 8100 SW 132 Ave., Miami. Call 305-232-4222.
Born 2 Swim Aquatic Academy
Private infant survival classes for ages 6 months and older, plus group instruction for youths through adults. Classes for individuals with disabilities available. Indoor pool available. Held at 1955 NW 108 Ave., Miami, 305-437-7946.
International Swim and Water Therapy
Private and group lessons for infants to adults in Miami. Call 786-286-8082.
Mommy and me, private and group lessons in Broward and Miami-Dade at these locations:
- Miccosukee Golf & Country Club, 6401 Kendall Lakes Dr., Miami, 305-383-SWIM
- Killian Palms Sport Complex, 9950 SW 104 St., Miami, 305-598-1200
- Grand Palms Hotel-Spa and Golf Resort, 110 Grand Palms Dr., Pembroke Pines, 954-646-SWIM
- The Isles At Oasis, The Oasis Clubhouse, 171 NE 30th Road, Homestead, 305-383-SWIM
Parent and me, private and group lessons for ages 6 months to adults. Indoor pool at 13408 SW 131st St., Kendall and outdoor pool at Gulliver Academy, 12595 SW 57th Ave., Pinecrest. Call 305-969-SWIM.
Offers private and group lessons for ages 3 months to adult at these locations.
- Dave & Mary Alper JCC, 11155 SW 112th Ave., Kendall; 305-273-1129 or 305-271-9000, ext. 287
- MAR JCC in Aventura, 18900 NE 25th Ave., North Miami Beach, 305-932-4200, ext. 167
- Miami Beach JCC at 4221 Pine Tree Dr., Miami Beach, 305-534-3206, ext. 217
- David Posnack JCC, 5850 S. Pine Island Rd., Davie, 954-434-0499, ext. 237
Mommy and Me, private and group lessons, for ages 6 months to adult. Lessons taught at Key Biscayne Recreation Center, 10 Village Green Way, Key Biscayne, and at Yacht Club Key Biscayne, 180 Harbor Dr. Call 305-262-7946.
Wet Dolphin Swimming Academy
Lessons for ages 6 months to adult. Private and group, Mommy and Me classes available, as well as classes for individuals with special needs. Lessons taught at 8250 NW 112th Ct., Miami. Call 786-287-0561.
The Oscar Project
Can your nanny handle an emergency? The Oscar Project offers child-safety classes for caregivers in English and Spanish.