It can happen in a matter of moments.
In the short time it takes to grab a snack or have a telephone conversation, an unsupervised child in a pool, lake or other body of water can drown, said local health officials.
At Red Bank Community Pool, representatives from T.C. Thompson Children's Hospital and Choo Choo Diving and Aquatic Center gathered Wednesday to share child drowning prevention tips and recognize Gov. Phil Bredesen's "Water Safety Day."
"Our No. 1 thing is supervision, supervision, supervision," said Cindy Jackson, coordinator of T.C. Thompson's Safe & Sound program and Safe Kids of Greater Chattanooga. "Active supervision means not talking on the cell phone, not talking with other adults, not being otherwise distracted."
Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Motor vehicle injuries are first.
In Hamilton County, data on how many children have drowned is slim.
CHILD DROWNING PREVENTION TIPS
* Actively supervise children in and around water by avoiding talking on the phone, reading or other distractions; never leave the area, even for a moment.
* Home pools or spas should be surrounded by a fence at least 5 feet high on all four sides.
* Clean up toys from the pool area after use; leftover toys can entice children to play or swim unsupervised.
* Don't rely on inflatable swimming toys as life-preserving devices.
Source: T.C. Thompson Children's Hospital
"We're just now beginning to track drowning statistics with the coroner so we can better understand and learn from those things that end so tragically," said Steve Newman, the operations manager at Choo Choo Diving and Aquatic Center who works with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office as a recovery diver.
At least six Chattanooga families were affected by a drowning or near-drowning last year, according to patient data at T.C. Thompson, Ms. Jackson said. That number does not include outlying areas or children who weren't brought to the hospital, she said.
Out-of-pool drowning is another concern with summer swimming season is under way, said Marisa Moyers, pediatric trauma coordinator at T.C. Thompson. People who ingest enough water while swimming can drown even after they are out of the pool, she said.
If a child submerges more than three times and is suspected of ingesting water, he or she should be removed from the water, Mr. Newman said.
"We just want our kids to have fun this summer and be safe," Ms. Moyers said. "We don't want to turn summer into a tragedy. There's enough of those in everyday life that aren't preventable, and this is certainly a preventable one."
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