That’s the main message officials want to send as swimming pools officially open Saturday in the city of St. Louis for the Memorial Day weekend.
“Please, pay attention to your kids in the pool,” said Kendra Robinson, who marched last Saturday in the annual Annie Malone May Day Parade. Her son, Terrance Green, drowned last summer in a pool at an apartment complex in north St. Louis County.
“Don’t let them swim without adults,” Robinson screamed in the parade, as she hoisted one end of a banner in memory of her late son.
Terrance, 12, was swimming with other children under the age of 14, according to police. A warning sign at the pool read that swimmers must be at least 18 and cannot use the pool without an attending adult.
The sign also read that there was not a lifeguard on duty, a situation prohibited at swimming pools owned by the city.
At city pools, one or more qualified lifeguards are required to be on duty whenever the pool or pool enclosure (fenced area) is open. Every lifeguard must have passed within the last three years a Senior Life Saving test given by the American Red Cross, YMCA, Boy Scouts of America or other organizations approved by the Health Commissioner.
According to the St. Louis City Department of Health, drowning is the No. 1 cause of unintentional death among children ages 1 to 4.
“Most drownings are not when a toddler sneaks out of the house and manages to get to the pool – it’s actually where the parents have gone to the pool with the child, and maybe they just run inside and grab soda or they get distracted on the phone,” said Birch McMullin, who was 5 when his brother drowned in 1982.
McMullin had joined a discussion last spring about preventing drownings, on “St. Louis on the Air.”
“So they happen most of the time while there is supervision going on,” McMullin pointed out.
Because of those types of concerns and statistics, the health department is taking part in a national initiative to protect children from drowning by encouraging all to take Pool Safely pledge.
The pledge for adults is to:
- Designate a water watcher every single time children in my care are in or near the water.
- Make sure my kids know how to swim.
- As a parent or guardian, learn CPR.
- Always remove portable pool ladders when not in use.
- Ensure all permanent pools have a proper fence and gate and safer drain covers.
The pledge for youths is:
- Pool safely in 2019.
- Never swim alone.
- Ask my parents to sign me up for swimming lessons.
- Stay away from drains in the pool or hot tub.
- Have fun and always follow these safety steps when I’m in and around the water.
In addition, the health departments suggests proper barriers, covers and alarms around pools and spas.