Health officials offer advice to keep swimmers safe

Jun. 14, 2013 @ 04:45 PM

The recent drownings of a man in Jordan Lake and an N.C. State student in a quarry near Charlotte have highlighted the importance of water safety, and Durham health officials are offering advice to prevent accidents.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 people die from unintentional drowning every day. Of these, two are children 14 or younger. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional-injury death in the United States.
More than half of near-drowning victims treated in emergency departments require hospitalization or transfer for further care, compared with a hospitalization rate of about 6 percent for all unintentional injuries, Durham health officials said.
These injuries can cause severe brain damage that may result in long-term disabilities such as memory problems, learning disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functioning.
The environmental health division of the Durham County Department of Public Health enforces rules governing the operation of 228 seasonal and 154 public swimming pools, wading pools and spas in the county.
“The safety of those using pools and spas in the county is our number-one priority,” said Robert Brown, environmental health division director. “Even after a facility has been inspected, our staff makes unannounced compliance inspections during the operating season to make sure that physical pool components, water circulation systems, water chemistry and clarity, and life safety systems are working and up to standards. If there are critical violations, a pool permit is subject to immediate suspension and the pool will be forced to close.”
The division is also responsible for weekly sampling for E. coli bacteria levels during the swimming season at Rolling View Beach, Durham County’s only public beach, located on Falls Lake.
Health officials said the keys to safety in and around the water are proper supervision and being aware of the surrounding environment. Some things to look for include:
- Making sure pool gates are always closed. When entering the pool area, gates should latch after entry.
-  Clearly posting pool rules.
-  Ensuring that a working emergency phone exists in the pool area.
-  Having clear, unobstructed access around the pool.
-  Having a lifeguard on duty or signs posted indicating that no lifeguard is provided. If there is no lifeguard, the law requires that a U.S. Coast Guard-approved ring buoy, throw rope and reach pole with body hook be visible and readily accessible.
- In general, if the water chemistry is properly maintained, the water will be crystal clear and sparkling. A coin dropped into the pool will be clearly visible on the pool floor.
-  Follow the no-diving and depth warnings.
- Stay away from the main drains.
More tips and recommendations for preventing water-related injuries can be found by visiting the Centers for Disease Control’s Home and Recreational Safety page at
For more information about pool and spa inspections and water-quality monitoring in Durham County, contact the environmental health division at 919-560-7800, by e-mail at, or visit the division webpage at