Water is a natural draw for adults and children, but safety isn’t always the top concern when people dive into a pool or one of Pennsylvania’s many lakes. Unfortunately, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Pennsylvania has the sad distinction of being fourth on the list of drownings in the United States. Drowning is the cause of death for 1 in 20 children in the state.
How to Protect Against Accidental Drowning
Most people imagine negligent babysitters chatting on the phone poolside or inattentive lifeguards are the cause of these alarming numbers. Surprisingly, a PA Department of Health report discovered that people were supervising two-thirds of the victims who died because of drowning. Negligent supervision may be part of the explanation for that frightening number, but not all.
Many responsible people don’t recognize the signs of drowning when they are right in front of them. The media is partly to blame; drowning isn’t always the flailing and thrashing in water people see on TV. The signs of drowning can be much more difficult to spot than most people think. Actual drowning is very subtle and quiet.
Look for signs of what doctors call the “Instinctive Drowning Response.” Instead of splashing and screaming, watch for:
- Quiet. Someone who is struggling to breathe and using all his or her muscles to stay afloat cannot call out for help. Call out names when you are supervising swimmers. If someone fails to respond, even though you see this person, he or she may be trouble.
- Bobbing. Someone who is drowning will bob up and down below the surface of the water, reemerging on top of the water for seconds before the water submerges the victim again.
- Weird arm movements. Drowning victims generally lose control of their arm movements. It may look like they are trying to climb an invisible ladder.
- Vertical positioning. Those who are struggling to stay afloat will stay upright in the water, without kicking their legs to stay up. Though many imagine splashing legs trying to get purchase in the water, a drowning victim’s legs may be still.
Because these responses are so subtle, even the most diligent parents or caregivers can miss them. Share these responses with anyone who is watching your children during swimming.
PA Drowning Statistics and National Statistics
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that between 2005 and 2014, more than 3,530 people died in accidental drownings. That number excludes drowning deaths from boating accidents, which account for over 300 more deaths annually. The majority of these drownings were children 13 and younger. According to the state’s Department of Public Health research, drowning was responsible for 5% of deaths in Philadelphia.
Though drowning is a national safety issue, drownings in Pennsylvania are an especially serious problem, accounting for the death of at least 62 people from 2009 to 2011 – almost 8% of all deaths in children under 18. The majority of the drownings, however, were of children ages 1–4, which is the most at-risk demographic for accidental drowning.
Who Is Liable in a Drowning in PA?
Property owners with pools or spas – from home owners to hotels and apartment complexes – should take extra precautions to minimize the possibility of drowning accidents. A few preventative measures include regular pool upkeep, lifeguard notices, and adequate fencing and locks.
If property owners with pools or spas are negligent in upkeep, like a diving board that is broken or a suction vent that isn’t working properly, then the risk of people drowning increases significantly. Many parties could be responsible in these situations – from the property manager to the company hired to care for the pool.
To understand liability in the aftermath of a drowning, speak with an experienced Pennsylvania attorney. The courts may award you or your family compensation for injury or death, but more importantly, being proactive against negligence can prevent others from suffering similar losses. Call Anapol Weiss to get an experienced drowning attorney on your side.