A lifeless-looking man was rushed from ocean to shore at Haulover Beach where members of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s Ocean Rescue Team strapped him with an oxygen mask and performed more than 40 chest compressions on a mannequin beside him.
The “rescued” man and the rescue team were part of a lifesaving demonstration on Saturday for the “Summer Safety Splash” event, which promotes water safety and drowning prevention during the height of swim season.
Now in its seventh year, the event included a resource fair at Haulover Beach Park's lifeguard headquarters to inform families and beach-goers about programs to help keep people, especially children, safe in the water. The event was sponsored by the Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and the Trauma Services Department at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.
Malvina Duncan, injury prevention coordinator at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, urges parents to use water safety programs to prevent the worst. “Take advantage of all the injury prevention information, and take it heart and practice it, because nobody thinks it's going to happen to them until it does.”
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Homestead resident Jenny Nyugen was 12 when she drowned in 2011 and Kareem Green was just 5 when he drowned in a pool during a class field trip in Miami. Their families set up memorial funds with proceeds financing free swim lessons for South Florida kids.
Duncan says there's a big misconception that parents or guardians will hear a child who is drowning.
“When a child is drowning, they don't have the energy to spend in yelling for help, they want to take in air.”
Another misconception: splashing. “That doesn't happen either. Their concentration is to try to stay afloat.”
Top ways to prevent drowning include diligent supervision, CPR, gates or fences around pools, removal of pool ladders to prevent children from climbing in, and the heeding of flag advisories on beaches.
And, of course, swim lessons.
“The earlier you start the better,” Duncan said.
Drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental deaths among children ages 1 through 14. Florida has the second highest number of drowning incidents in the U.S. and Miami-Dade County leads the state in drowning deaths with an average of 45 a year, according to county reports.
For those who couldn't attend the event but wish to learn more about drowning prevention and water safety, visit The Miami-Dade Drowning Prevention Coalition website.
Other efforts by the county to make water safety a priority are text alerts for hazardous weather, boat-ramp closures and re-openings, and other safety concerns via text messages. You can register online at http://miamidade.gov/wps/portal/Main/marinaalerts.