North Memorial Medical Center is coordinating swimming safety events due to the high number of drowning incidents (19) and near drowning incidents (21) that occurred in Hennepin County last year. The emphasis is on safety in apartment complex pools, which are usually operated with no lifeguards or supervision.
“Many people don’t recognize the signs of drowning until it’s too late,” says Alison Pence, injury prevention program coordinator at North Memorial. “Our focus will be to demonstrate what drowning really looks like and the steps that should be taken.”
One high-profile drowning last August involved a 9-year-old girl in a pool at a Plymouth
apartment complex who died along with a 26-year-old man who tried to save her. The girl visiting from Liberia had struggled when she swam into the deep end.
A month later, a 14-year-old girl drowned in an apartment complex pool in Brooklyn Center.
In both instances, the victims were taken to North Memorial. It's no surprise, then, that the medical center has scheduled the water safety events at apartment complexes with indoor pools in Brooklyn Park
(April 14), Brooklyn Center (April 19) and Plymouth (April 28). A video on swimming safety (prepared in six languages by the City of Brooklyn Park) will be presented and also given to apartment managers to show to new tenants. Teachers from the Foss Swim School will provide demonstrations on drowning and safe rescue tactics during the events.
While hardly scientific, a review of the Star Tribune archives (using the search terms "drown" and "apartment") showed that apartment drowning incidents often involve children -- and visitors rather than tenants.
-- A 10-year-old visiting from Milwaukee drowned in an apartment pool in Crystal in August 2008.
-- That same month, a 6-year-old from St. Cloud drowned in an apartment pool in Brooklyn Center, and a 28-year-old died swimming in an apartment pool in Little Canada.
-- A 5-year-old visiting an apartment pool in St. Louis Park
for a birthday party drowned in July 2009.
This is a bit of a hot button issue for me; I nearly drowned at age 5 when I slipped into the deep end of a pool at a friend's house during a birthday party. I have a vivid memory of looking up as the friend's fully clothed mother dove into the pool and pulled me up from the bottom in time. (Thanks again Mrs. Nelson!) Parents need to know the swimming skills of their children AND any friends, cousins, etc., before letting them go in a pool or lake -- especially an unsupervised pool.
Update: Provisional 2011 data from the Minnesota Department of Health showed 63 drownings in the state last year, an increase from 50 in 2010 and 46 in 2009. Children aren't the only victims. Only 10 of the victims who drowned in pools or natural water were 20 years old or younger.