Pool safety requires constant vigilance
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Ten years ago Jerry Pitzer sat by his backyard pool with a friend. Five of his kids were perched on the pool steps. His best baby sitter, a Dalmatian named Patch, stood guard.
But no one saw 3-year-old Cassandra fall into the pool and sink to the bottom.
Last week, 52-year-old Pitzer, now a water-safety instructor at Community Based Care of Central Florida, shared the story of his daughter's drowning at a news conference.
Pitzer -- along with representatives from several Orange County (Fla.) departments and The Gift of Swimming, a program that provides swimming lessons for underprivileged children -- spoke about water safety and drowning prevention.
Last year, 228 children age 12 or younger drowned in Florida, more than any other state.
We're wiping out the equivalent of several classrooms of kids each year in Florida, said Dr. Kevin Sherin, director of the Orange County Department of Health.
In 2012, 1,000 children drowned across the country and another 5,000 suffered injuries from a near-drowning experience.
In Orange County, drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4. So far this year, Orange County Fire Rescue has responded to 12 drowning calls for those younger than 18.
With 67,000 registered backyard pools and 2,000 public pools in the county, pool safety is everyone's responsibility, Sherin said.
When Pitzer didn't see his young daughter in the house, he frantically checked her usual hiding spots. Nothing.
Then he went outside and scanned the surface of the backyard pool. Finally, he saw her at the bottom.
His final piece of advice for the audience was chilling.
"Drowning children don't float," Pitzer said.
He recommended these prevention tips during the news conference:
Orange County Fire Chief Otto Drozd said supervision and barriers are key to drowning prevention, and offered additional tips:
Susan Polder, the executive director for The Gift of Swimming, went over precautionary steps for parents: