All across Georgia, you can find farm ponds, lagoons and water wells. While they all have their purpose and benefits, they have also been the site of accidental drownings. Most victims range in age from toddlers to young adults and sometimes are not residents of the farm where the incident occurred.
Children are naturally curious and a pond can be an attractive play area. Despite the fact that they may be issued warnings, their attention span is very short and sometimes adults overestimate a child’s sense of judgement. Some of the statistics should make us take special note of farm pond safety. According to an article from the National Children’s Center, drowning rates for all age groups are three times higher in rural areas compared to urban areas. Children under the age of four are at the highest risk for drowning in farm ponds. It is estimated that for each childhood drowning death approximately four children are hospitalized for near-drowning.
Adults are also drowning victims in farm ponds. Research shows that accidents most often occur when people use farm ponds for recreational swimming. Multiple deaths have occurred when one person attempts to rescue another individual who is in trouble.
So how do we help make our farm ponds safer? If you own a pond, the Agricultural Engineering Department at Penn State University lists some of the precautions you should take. In general, all ponds and lagoons should be fenced and posted with No Trespassing signs to keep trespassers out.
Restrict entrance to your pond to keep out uninvited guests. Under Georgia Law, pond and lake owners can claim exemption from liability for injuries to or the death of people that occur as an inherent risk of fishing. To be covered by this exemption, pond and lake owners must post a sign stating that the owner is not liable, pursuant to Article 7, Chap. 4, of Title 27 of the Georgia Code. Signs explaining pond and lake owners’ liability exemption are available to Georgia Farm Bureau members through their county office.
Make your farm pond safe for swimming by eliminating all physical hazards. This may include: grading of slopes for easy entrance; dragging shallow areas for dangerous objects; marking drop-offs; and roping off unsafe areas. Use markers and signs to identify the depth of the pond at different locations.
Every farm pond used for swimming should have a rescue post inserted firmly in the ground near the water’s edge. Secure a nylon rope to the post which is long enough to reach across the pond. Attach one end of the rope to a buoy and the other end to a wood block. Then hang these on the rescue post. A gallon plastic milk jug containing a pint of water can also serve as a buoy. A thin, 12-14 foot pole should also be kept at the rescue post for assisting victims out of the pond. A sign printed with emergency phone numbers should also be attached to the rescue post.
A life ring or buoy tied to a nylon rope for tossing to potential drowning victims should also be attached to the rescue post.
Individuals should never swim alone even if they are expert swimmers.
Everyone in the family should learn to swim. Learning to swim is the best defense against drowning. Children on the farm should be taught to swim at an early age.
Farm ponds are great places for family and friends. Most farm families have amusing stories and fond memories of time spent fishing or swimming in a local farm pond. Let’s keep the good stories rolling in.
Be sure your farm pond is a safe as well as enjoyable place to spend the day.