Increase in pool purchases leads to drowning fears for swimming experts


ST. LOUIS – February is not a time most people are thinking about the pool, but they should be. Experts in swimming safety are worried that we are going to have a ‘drowning epidemic’ due to the increase of pools from the COVID lockdown. 

Reuters reported last summer that the pool industry’s trade group expected a 10 percent increase in sales, with talk that orders last summer wouldn’t even be installed until 2021.

While we still have a few months before outdoor pools open up, now is the time to get your children in swim classes, well ahead of the summer season or any summer vacations you have planned. 

Birch McMullin, water safety expert and franchise owner of British Swim School in Chesterfield, says learning to swim isn’t like riding a bike. 

“Think of it more along the lines of learning piano or learning a new language or learning math. It does take a while to teach these skills to children. Especially again, the youngest kids are learning mostly through muscle memory,” he said. 

He says it takes repetition and consistency to lock those skills in.  

Drowning happens incredibly fast and is silent and is the number one cause of death for kids 1 to 4 years old and the number two cause of accidental deaths for kids 5 to 9.  

“The statistics are for every fatal drowning you have there are another five who go to the emergency room to be treated for that and of those about half of them require further hospitalization,” said McMullin. “So even the non-fatal drownings can have truly catastrophic long-term effects on the children.”  

However, drowning is the most preventable of the accidental causes of death. 

“It could be completely out of the top ten with some simple preventative measures,” he said. “Swim lessons are one of the key pieces. Formal swim lessons can reduce the risk by 88%.” 

This is personal for McMullin. When he was a 5-year-old, his 22-month-old brother died in a drowning. 

“There were probably people standing 4 or 5 feet away from him when he went in. No one heard it, no one saw him, by the time they found him he was already unconscious,” he said. 

Lessons can start as young as 3 months old. 

“We’re already starting to teach kids how to if they fall in the water how to roll over and float on their backs the value of that is if they’re on their backs obviously they can breathe first and foremost, but they can also call for help,” said McMullin. 

These skills save many lives and McMullin loves the good calls he gets from parents. 

“We were on vacation. My kid went down the water slide and the splash pool was deeper than they thought and they couldn’t stand up and they popped up and rolled over and floated and got themselves over to the side and they were fine,” he said. 

McMullin says that classes in our region are filling up so get your kids signed up now so they can start learning these life-saving skills. 

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