After more than a year in lockdown and restrictions due to COVID-19, this summer vacation season will likely explode with people anxious to get outside and enjoy water activities. Louisiana has no shortage of lakes, beaches, rivers and swimming pools, and after staying inside for so long, it is worth reviewing the rules of water safety.
It turns out that 2020 was the deadliest year on record for Louisiana after five straight years of decreasing numbers for child drownings. Louisiana recorded a shocking 60% uptick in drownings experienced by children ages 0-14 compared to the previous year. Louisiana comes in fourth nationwide for child drownings, which are a leading cause of death in American children under four. In fact, ten people drown every day in the U.S., and out of those 10, two are children ages 14 and younger. These statistics are not surprising if you think about how fast a day at the pool can turn tragic. If a young child falls into the water without someone noticing, a child under 30 pounds who can’t swim can drown in just 30 seconds.
There are several ways parents and other adults can make it safer for themselves and their children to play in and around pools or other bodies of water.
- Take a CPR class.
- Always supervise swimming children and refrain from other activities while doing so.
- Teach children how to swim at an early age.
- Keep children away from pool pipes, drains, and other outlets to avoid entrapments.
- Discourage running or pushing around the pool.
- Always have children wear a life jacket when on a boat or otherwise spending time in open water.
- Put up a fence around your home pool.
- Never swim by yourself.
- Keep a phone nearby in case you need 911.
In 2010, a three-year-old Ville Platte, Louisiana boy, ran after a basketball, slipped and fell, and tragically drowned. His grandfather, Joe Vining, turned his grief into drowning prevention by creating a non-profit organization that promotes water safety and offers free swimming lessons called Children’s Water Safety Awareness. Despite efforts like these, Louisiana children are dying at the same rates they were 40 years ago. Experts say this stagnation is due to a lack of awareness and parent vigilance.
Several Louisiana state entities have joined together on a panel called the Louisiana Child Death Review panel to reduce child drownings by researching past incidents. Grants from the “Pool Safely” program, designed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), have provided water safety education and lessons throughout the state.
Louisiana has required barriers around certain pools for years since their 2015 adoption of the International Pool and Spa Code. The barriers must be at least four feet high with self-latching gates. But these rules currently only apply to public pools and residential pools built or renovated after 2015.
Other Swimming Dangers
Drowning is not the only water-related cause of death in Louisiana. There are endless natural water sources that may contain deadly toxins and parasites, including sewage leaks, post-storm or agricultural runoff, and animal/human feces. Swimming pools can be a breeding ground for harmful organisms if not properly chemically treated.
While Louisiana regularly tests the beach water at more than 20 beaches along the coast from May through October and posts results weekly, prevention is also up to residents. You should steer clear of drainage ditches, posted warnings, and areas with a lot of trash. It is also important to refrain from putting your head underwater and ingesting water in public waterways.
Also, be mindful when swimming in lakes, rivers or the Gulf that you should never dive into the water until you are 100 percent certain it is deep enough. Shallow water, underwater logs, big rocks or other debris are all dangerous. Diving headfirst can cause serious injury.
Even when water safety precautions are taken, injury or accidents can still occur at a pool or in other bodies of water due to negligence. If you or someone you know has been injured or is an unfortunate victim of drowning due to the negligence of someone else, the team at Herman, Herman & Katz is here to help. Our experienced attorneys can guide you through these very tragic and complicated situations. For more information, contact us online or call toll-free at 844-943-7626.
Jed Cain is a partner with Herman, Herman & Katz, LLC. He has dedicated his career to representing injured folks and their families.