Water safety is a big deal: From 2005 to 2014, there’s an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings annually in the United States and about one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Rosie Hovron, state forensic epidemiologist with the office of the Chief Medical Examiner, said in 2018 there seven accidental drownings in Norfolk and nine in Virginia Beach, and 2019’s summer swimming season is just getting started.
Most accidental drownings happen in the summer months, clustered between May and September, Hovron said.
One of the easiest ways to prevent those drownings, however, is to teach swimming skills and adhere to state pool regulations.
Taking part in in formal swimming lessons reduces the risk of drowning among children to 4 years old, according to the CDC.
Another big factor is supervision and basic water safety.
The city of Virginia Beach sent out some information on code enforcement tips and requirements for decks and pools.
The city enforces the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code and other city codes, including requiring pool owners to maintain an effective barrier around their pools to help prevent accidental drownings.
The CDC recommends a four-sided pool fence be installed that completely separates the pool area from the house and the yard.
The fence should be at least four feet high and self-closing or self-latching gates that open outward are recommended to be installed out of reach of children, according to the CDC.
Experts also suggest additional barriers such as automatic door locks and alarms to prevent access or alert people if someone enters the pool area.
An effective pool barrier prevents children from going over, under or through the barrier, and keeps them from accessing the pool when supervising adults are not present, according to the city.
There are specific requirements that address in-ground and above-ground pools, and the type and size of safety barriers.
Having effective safety barriers in place also applies to hot tubs and spas, officials said.
Information on those code requirements, including a detailed guidebook with diagrams, is available here.
To find local swimming lessons, click here.