Vigilance vital to avoid kids' drownings

Accidents happen.

Not all of them need to.

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Christian Cunningham (being held by father, Randall) is one of nearly 400 kids who die in pools and spas every year.

About a month ago, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission launched its "Pool Safely" campaign as it released its most recent report on submersion incidents of children 15 years and younger.

Christian Cunningham, the 2-year-old son of Randall Cunningham, fell into the most- deadly category Tuesday, becoming one of nearly 400 kids who die in pools and spas every year. Christian drowned in the hot tub at the family home in Las Vegas.

The investigation into the drowning was ongoing, but it was initially labeled an accident.

According to the CPSC, Christian's group is the most susceptible to such deadly accidents.

About 78 percent of the fatalities between 2005 and 2007 happened to children younger than 5, and half happened to children 2 or younger. Almost 85 percent of those deaths happened at home.

Overwhelmingly, most of the incidents occur around pools. Only 4 percent of all deaths - or about a dozen per year - occur in spas.

Caregivers must remain vigilant as they supervise children near pools and spas, said child-safety expert and author Debra Smiley Holtzman.

While adults might take minutes to succumb, "kids drown in seconds," Holtzman said from her home in Hollywood, Fla. "They can drown in as little as 1 inch of water."

She wrote "The Safe Baby," and routinely is a consultant and expert witness.

"This is a stark reminder for parents," she said. "They need to take action."

That means locks on doors leading to pools and spas; fences with self-locking gates around pools; covers for pools and, especially, for spas; and, always, a watchful eye, especially when the hazards are accessible.

"I recommend multiple layers of protection," Holtzman said. "People have to be attentive; no looking away, no texting."

Holtzman cited the Safe Kids Coalition, whose numbers show that drowning deaths decreased by 20 percent from 2000 to 2004.

"We've made progress," Holtzman said, "but we've got a long way to go." *