The Byford Files

More Network Fear-mongering: Portable Pools

And in the immortal words of my Daddy Boot Camp coach:

When you’re bathing the baby, never leave the baby alone in the tub. If you have to do something in the other room, pick up the baby and take him ) and go to the other room. A baby can drown in only an inch of water. NEVER LEAVE YOUR BABY IN WATER. Any one have a pool in your backyard? Never leave a baby near a pool. THEY WILL DROWN.

Yesterday morning, NBC and partner MSNBC.com ran a story on the dangers of portable pools and that kids are drowning in these pools at a rate of one every five summer days. I know, shocking. Kids are still drowning. Kids still don’t know how to swim from the day they were born. Please, do not misunderstanding me before I proceed. One lost life is as significant a thousand, but statistically significant? News-worthy? Now, about a year ago now, in a post titled “Drinking the Bacterial Soup,” In that post, I detailed a news report by the same organization which spoke of FECAL MATTER IN THE BATHTUB WHERE YOUR CHILD IS BATHING. Yeah, it’s true. And, guess what, it was true three decades ago when I was bathing in the same bathtub playing with the same squeaky bath toys. Nothing’s changed. Just because NBC covers it doesn’t mean it’s new news. My brother drank the bacterial soup. I drank the bacterial soup. You drank the bacterial soup. Fecal matter for everyone! This and yesterday’s report are a practice of redundancy…topical reminders of the dangers that your child faces on the come-up.

But is this report as much about pools being dangerous as it is parents who are negligent? It reads: “‘Parents need to be aware that these pools can present the same risks for drowning, especially for young children, as in-ground pools,’ which are typically thought of as a greater safety hazard.” So am I believe to that portable pools are more dangerous than they were before or they’re just dangerous because people generally don’t believe they are? It’s the same freaking pool that I played in when I was a kid, right? There’s no design flaw or recall I’m unaware of?

Research showed that, in children under 12, there were 209 deaths and 35 near-drownings from 2001 and 2009. Most children were under five and 81% happened during the summer months. Firstly, I don’t know how many millions of kids there were that were under 12 from 2001 to 2009, but let’s just say for the sake of example, there were 20,000,000 children who meet the criteria of “under 12” during these years. 209 out of 2,000,000 is .01045%.

Do we need to proceed?

And I don’t count the 35 near-drownings because without defining what a “near-drowning” is, I could say that every child experiences a near-drowning. If you’d like to throw that into the 209, I’ll give it to you. That makes .0122%. I’m no statistician, but that’s a pretty small percentage. Don’t you think if it was really worth a news story, that it should first reach “recall level” pandemonium? If they’re not recalling portable pools, do we need the news story? Is 209 deaths during an eight-year span an increase? Decrease? Average? No one’s telling me what I need to know!

94% of them involved kids under 5. Why? Because kids under five are less likely to know how to swim, I would presume.

And 81% of them happened during the summer months. Why? Because kids don’t swim in the fall and winter. C’mon. That’s a lay-up.

Both the broadcasted version and the web article are just longwinded and frustratingly distractive ways of telling parents to pay attention and learn CPR. That’s it. You can dissolve all this fear-mongering down to that simple lesson. It’s not about portable pools. It’s not about water of a certain depth. It’s not the design of the pool. It’s not the ladder. It’s not the cover. It has nothing to do with the pool at all. If it did, this would be a recall. It’s about parents. It’s about not turning your back on a child in water.

You don’t need the statistics to tell you that kids can drown at any time. NBC presents those statistics like they’re incredibly significant and, if you boil it down, they’re not significant at all. It was barely worth the keystrokes to calculate it. This is like Cheetos for the brain.

Shame on NBC for even letting this crap get on the air. We baby our parents with news stories like this instead of talking straight to them like my Daddy Boot Camp drill sergeant. He gave me all I needed to know in one hardcore air-splitting declaration: Never leave a baby near a pool…they will drown.

If there’s one thing I can respect about him now over a year (and a baby) later, it’s he didn’t pussyfoot around with advice. He had an hour and a half to teach how to or how not to kill your baby. And that’s what he did…with flare. I think NBC should book this guy for the same two minutes on the Today Show and let him rattle off the twenty ways that your baby might die or become paralyzed. That’d be TV worth watching. I think of all of the people that went into the production of that garbage news story…the people to generate the crafty graphics, the producers who went and got the stock footage of kids in pools, the on-the-spot reporter poolside somewhere in the Midwest, the make-up guy, the guy who holds the light, the boom mic, the camera, the guy who had to open the pool so the Today Show could film there, Matt Lauer’s credibility, the researchers and number-crunchers.

I think they should just go live to Amarillo, Texas where my not-so network-ready drill sergeant is standing in front of a blank wall in a hospital basement somewhere with no make-up and no teleprompter. Just give him two minutes to run down his list and could replace the next decade of these horribly drivelous news stories…and go! 

Don’t leave your baby on the changing table unsupervised…they will fall off and die. Don’t let your baby crawl near steps…they fall down one, they fall down all and they will die. Don’t let your baby sleep with too many blankets…these are a suffocation hazard and they will die. Don’t let your baby near a pool in the backyard…they will fall in and drown. Don’t let your baby near unprotected electrical sockets…they will jam something in there and die of electrocution. Make sure you put latches on your cabinets…a baby could open a cabinet and climb up to the countertop and then fall off and die. Keep all your chemicals out of a baby’s reach…they could drink something and die of poison. Don’t let your cat near the baby…he could smother the baby and the baby would die. Make sure that you use the wheel locks on strollers…a stroller with a baby in it could roll out into the street and be stuck by a car and the baby would die. Don’t let your baby chew on small toys or toys with small pieces…the baby could choke on something and die. Never let a baby try stand up in a bathtub…they could slip and fall, hit their head and die. Don’t let your baby bungee jump…ever. Never leave your child unattended in the yard…they could eat something they shouldn’t become ill and die.

Then a wide-eyed and pale Matt Lauer: And now here’s Al Roker with the weather.

Happy Tuesday, parents. Enjoy the Louis Armstrong wonderful world. It’s not as scary as the networks and their advertisers would like you to believe.

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One thought on “More Network Fear-mongering: Portable Pools

  1. Cousin Carrie says:

    This made it to the denver local news as well! I had nearly the same reaction! i think that if you were a producer for the Today show, it would be a lot more interesting 🙂 good luck during pool season.

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