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The Mercy Injury Prevention Center and Safe Kids Springfield are working with the Missouri Water Patrol, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Brian and Nathan Keese Water Safety Organization to keep kids safe around the water this summer. In 2010, 21 children ages 12 and younger were killed in boating accidents.
Daphne Greenlee, trauma outreach and Safe Kids coordinator for Mercy Springfield, says an important safety tool is life jackets.
"Usually about half the children who've died from being on a boating accident were without life jackets, and, whether it's they fall off the boat or whether they're just out playing in the water and getting over exerted, we understand that kids don't always take the time to think ahead and what consequences might be so it's really important that parents do that for them," she said.
According to Greenlee, life jackets should fit well across the shoulders and should not be loose and bulky on a child. Knowing your child’s weight, she says, is important in sizing a life jacket.
Missouri law says kids younger than seven must wear life jackets while boating, and children under 13 are required to wear life jackets on any recreational vessel in waters under Coast Guard jurisdiction unless they’re below deck or within an enclosed cabin.
But Greenlee says it’s important for older kids to wear them, too.
"We know that if they're out on the boat it doesn't really matter what their age is, they really need to be in a life jacket," she said.
Greenlee urges parents to learn CPR so they can save their child’s life if a near drowning occurs. She says that can mean the difference between life and death.
And she says parents should pay close attention to their children when they’re around any type of water.
"It's very easy for parents to be distracted from talking to someone on the phone, reading, something like that, and it's not just enough to be present with the child, they really need to have active supervision, so whether it's one parent taking turns watching kids in the water while the other one's, you know, reading or whatever it may be, they really need to have someone watching them at all times," she said.
She says parents shouldn’t rely solely on lifeguards to keep their kids safe.