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Hillsborough Leads State In Child Drownings So Far This Year

U.S. Navy

Florida typically leads the nation in child drownings and this year Hillsborough County is leading the state. Seventy-four children have drowned in Florida this year, including nine in Hillsborough, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families.

“We could fill up two preschool classes with the amount of children that have drowned in the state of Florida,” said Charlene Cobb, a registered paramedic and a spokesperson for Sunstar Paramedics.

There are more drownings in Florida because the state is surrounded by water, has more pools and has a longer swim season, Cobb said.

Five of the deaths in Hillsborough County happened in pools, three happened in ponds and one in a bathtub.

“Parents will say things like I just left for a second to answer the door, or I just left for a second to answer the phone," Cobb said. "There's nothing more important at that moment than that child in that bathtub."

So far this year, five children drowned in Pasco, four in Sarasota and three in Polk. Pinellas and Manatee had not reported any child drownings. 

Cobb, who is also chair of the Pinellas Safe Kids Coalition, devotes much of her time to a campaign called Prevent Needless Deaths, which focuses on child safety issues from drowning to unsafe sleep and head trauma.

“Prevention, layers of protection, keeping your eyes on the children, getting swimming lessons, all of those are important things for parents to address,” Cobb said.

To prevent drowning accidents, she said, parents should know about water bodies around their homes, including neighbors' pools.

She shares the five layers of pool safetyand tips from Prevent Needles Deaths:

  • Adult supervision at all times during water and non-water activities.
  • Install barriers, such as gates and self-latching locks, to limit access to home swimming pools.
  • Install alarms on doors and windows that will alert adults when a door is opened and a child goes outside.
  • Don’t rely on safety jackets and floats.
  • Keep children who can crawl away from hidden hazards such as pet water bowls, toilets, and buckets with water.

If a parent finds a child who is drowning, they should perform CPR and call 911 immediately. 

Eillin Delapaz is a WUSF radio intern for the fall 2018 semester.
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