SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – As summer rushes in and families get ready to have fun in the water, News 6 spoke to local officials about what parents can do to keep their children safe.
Officials with Seminole County Fire Department encouraged parents to not be complacent. They said drownings can happen at any time, and it’s important to have multiple safety measures in place.
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“It’s so horrible, and it affects your life in every way possible, especially this type of accident,” said Jennifer Peacock.
Jennifer and David Peacock lost their son Wesley in 2020. They said at 26 months old, he got out of their screened porch and past a pool fence to get into the water in their backyard.
“It was the first week of lockdown in 2020,” Jennifer Peacock said. “I was cooking dinner, and I just had this strong feeling to go check on Wesley.”
The couple, who live in Longwood, are now committed to making sure no other families experience their grief.
“We believe this happens to the best parents,” said David Peacock. “That’s the heartbreak of it.”
According to the CDC, drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages four and under. In Florida, a state report showed 98 deaths in 2021, compared to 69 in 2020.
“Drownings don’t just happen in back yards. They happen in lakes, rivers, streams, anywhere,” said Toni Loudermilk, a firefighter and paramedic with Seminole County Fire Department.
Seminole County Fire Department has responded to 4 pediatric drowning calls so far in 2022.
“It’s high,” Loudermilk said. “It is something that definitely should be alerting to a lot of parents.”
Loudermilk said a drowning can happen in just a few seconds. She encouraged parents to be involved and teach their children to be aware of the water around them.
“If you have a pool at home, I encourage you to take your child to the pool and start making them more cognizant of what’s around them,” she said.
Jennifer and David Peacock tell parents to think of what they call “five to survive:” swim lessons, pool fencing with a self-closing gate, locked doors and alarms, supervision, and CPR.
“‘Five to survive’ gives other options,” said David Peacock. “It helps prepare you for situations that you can’t control.”
“It can be avoided if they know how to float on their back,” added Jennifer Peacock. “If they can self-rescue from 6 months, when your baby can sit up, they can start survival swim.”