The tragic death of Olympic skier Bode Miller’s 19-month-old daughter on Sunday has cast new light on the dangers of drowning – which is the no. 2 cause of death among young children in the United States.
Emeline Miller drowned in a swimming pool during a pool party in Orange County, California, Miller said in a statement.
“Our baby girl, Emmy, passed away yesterday. Never in a million years did we think we would experience a pain like this,” he posted to Instagram. “Her love, her light, her spirit will never be forgotten. Our little girl loved life and lived it to it’s fullest everyday. Our family respectfully requests privacy during this painful time.”
Between 800 and 900 children drown every year in the United States, according the Centers for Disease Control. For children between ages 1 and 4, only birth defects cause more deaths than unintentional drowning. Of those deaths, most occur in home swimming pools.
According to the CDC, children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates. Drowning was responsible for one third of all accidental deaths for young children in 2014.
Pools can be dangerous because it only takes a few moments for a child to fall into the water and drown, said Emily Samuel, senior program manager at Safe Kids Worldwide, a nonprofit that aims to keep kids safe from accidental injury and death.
“Drowning is quick and silent so you wont hear cries for help or splashing like you would expect so its really important that parents take extra steps for safety,” she told TIME.
The CDC said the main factors that increase the risk of drowning include: lack of swimming ability, lack of barriers to prevent unsupervised water access, lack of close supervision while swimming, failure to wear life jackets and seizures.
Here’s what you can do to keep your kids safe around water this summer:
Designate an adult to watch children near water
Proper supervision is the single most important thing when it comes to parents, kids and water, Samuel said.
“Make sure you’re watching kids without being distracted,” she said. “If you have a weak swimmer make sure they’re within arms reach or are partnered up. Parents also shouldn’t assume someone else is watching their child.”
Samuel suggested if there is a pool party parents take turns supervising, with each adult taking a 15 minute shift. Safe Kids Worldwide has a printable Water Watcher Card available to designate the adult in charge. Small precautions like this can ensure that parents don’t get distracted.
Samuel also suggested parents learn basic rescue techniques and CPR so that they are able to respond in case of a water emergency.
“You want to make sure you’re constantly watching them,” Samuel said. “Kids like to play when they’re in the water, you need to watch them when they’re going under, make sure they’re coming up to the surface.”
Teach your children how to swim
According to the USA Swimming Foundation, formal swimming lessons help reduce the likelihood of a child drowning by 88%. A 2017 study found that children who are afraid of drowning are 67% more likely to have low or no swimming ability.
Swimming lesson can even help prevent drowning for children between age 1 and 4, according to the CDC.
USA Swimming Foundation works to teach swimming lessons to children in black and Latino communities, who are much more likely not to know how to swim, according to the the study. The CDC found that black children age 5-19 are 5.9 times more likely to drown than white children.
Debbie Hesse, executive director at USA Swimming Foundation, said the results of the 2017 study revealed swimming lessons are an important factor in avoiding drownings.
“We need to keep a sustained effort to introduce children to swimming and drive the important message that learning to swim can save your life,” she said in a statement.
Install a fence around swimming pools
A barrier that completely separates the pool area from the house and yard can prevent children from wandering into the pool. The CDC recommends that parents who have a swimming pool at home install four sided fencing that is at least four feet high. According to the Mayo Clinic, parents should avoid fences that children can easily climb. The best bet is installing self-closing and self-latching gates that open away from the pool area with latches beyond a child’s reach, the clinic said.
Put away pool toys when they’re not being used
Children can be easily tempted by colorful pool toys and fall in while trying to retrieve it. The CDC recommended parents clear the pool and deck of toys so children are not tempted to enter the pool area unsupervised.