This year the Santa Monica Fire Department reported its highest number of “near drownings” since 2012. And with a total of four reported this year, including two over Labor Day weekend, the number of incidents has doubled since 2014.
According to the Santa Monica Fire Department’s deputy chief of operations, Jeff Furrows, a near drowning “could be a person who has a little bit of water in their lungs and they are gonna get checked on and released, all the way to a person in critical condition, where perhaps CPR was performed and that person could have expired in the hospital at a later time, but they were delivered to the hospital … But in our interaction with them they were still in the category of a near drowning.” Furrows said a drowning on the other hand implies a fatality.
The fire department records only “near drownings,” and Furrows said it isn’t always easy for the department to get information about what happens to the victims after they leave the paramedics’ care.
“It’s sometimes very difficult for us even to get the final disposition of the patients,” he said.
There were no “near drownings” reported in Santa Monica in 2009. In 2010 there were four incidents recorded: two women and one man in the ocean, and one female in a pool. In 2011 four incidents were again reported, all from the ocean, with two men and two women involved. In 2012 the number spiked to five, all in the ocean and all male victims. In 2013 there were two “near drownings” reported, one male from the ocean and one female in a pool. Last year there were two “near drownings” in total, one male in a pool and one male in the ocean.
“What’s interesting is the ocean patients that we’re interacting with are typically adults. About the youngest in these numbers is a 14-year-old female, but with the exception of that all of them are over the age 18. But on the pool side, our data is consistent. In 2010 the female was a 3-year-old. 2013 the female in the pool was 9-years-old. In 2014 one was a 2-year-old male,” Furrows said.
According to a press release put out by the Los Angeles County Fire Department in early August, almost 70 percent of all drowning accidents occur in backyard swimming pools. “It only takes a few seconds for a person to drown, and drowning accidents are the leading cause of death for children one to four years of age,” the press release reads.
The LAFD has also seen an increase in the number of emergency responses related to drownings and near deaths this year. In 2014, 14 drowning deaths were reported in Los Angeles County, and since January of this year 13 drowning deaths have been reported, the release states.
Furrows said the reason for the spike in both the SMFD and LAFD numbers could be attributed to the weather.
“Sometimes when the weather gets hot there are more people coming to the beach and a higher number of possible incidents,” he said. “People using their pools more.”
The LAFD has offered these safety tips to prevent pool-related drownings:
– Never allow children to be alone when near water; make sure an adult is always present.
– Make sure that the pool is secure at all times.
– Keep toys out of the pool area when not in use.
– Mount approved floatation devices near the pool. Many toy floatation devices are thought to be lifesaving devices; they are not. They are toys!
– Never dive into an aboveground pool. Know the depth of the water before you attempt to dive.
– Keep a telephone outside near the pool. DO NOT leave children unattended to talk on the telephone.
– Post the 911 emergency number on the telephone.
The LAFD created a new Public Service Announcement to highlight the importance of pool and water safety. The video can be viewed here:

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