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Medicine for the Outdoors
Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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More on Submersion Incidents and Drowning Prevention


After I posted recently on submersion incidents, I read an excellent commentary in the Spring 2007 issue of Brain Waves (ThinkFirst Canada's official newsletter) on residential pool safety by Claude Goulet, Ph.D., who is a Professor in the Department of Physical Education at the Universite Laval. He answered a question about safety and security measures to be taken upon installation of a home pool, many of which are applicable to water safety in a wilderness setting as well:

1. The most effective measure is to block access to the pool when it is not supervised.
2. Adhere to all local regulations dealing with pool safety.
3. For any pool deeper than 1.5 ft, block access to the pool with a fence or non-retractable, four-sided barrier at least 4 feet high, with a self-closing and self-latching gate.
4. Surround any inflatable pool with a four-sided fence.
5. Chain link fences can be scaled, so should not be used, regardless of the size of the openings in the links.
6. Any pool connected to a house by a deck must be surrounded on four sides by a proper barrier.
7. Pool alarms, gate alarms, pool covers, and other devices should not be considered substitutes for proper isolating fences and gates.
8. Position the pool filter unit so that it cannot serve as a step by which the fence can be scaled.
9. Do not leave toys or other objects attractive to children in a pool after swimming hours.
10. Swimming skills and lessons should not be considered an absolute drowning prevention measure, especially with children younger than 5 years of age.
11. Children in and around a pool must always be supervised by an adult.
12. Arm band floating devices are not an effective drowning prevention measure for children.
13. Do not allow diving into a pool of shallow depth, particularly less than 8 feet in depth.
14. At least one person supervising children in a pool should know water rescue and basic first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

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Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.

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