TODAY | July 11, 2012
>> here is savannah.
>> thanks very much. now a warning to parents, alarming new figures how many children have drowned or nearly drowned this summer. nbc's tom costello at a pool in bethesda, maryland this morning. tom, good morning.
>> hi, savannah, good morning. we've got the swim teamworking out behind us here. if you need another reason to make sure you teach your kids how to swim, 77 people have drowned since memorial day , most of them kids. 78 more involved in near drownings. nearly every one, an example of how a great day at the pool can quickly turn into tragedy. watch closely the surveillance video from a pool in washington state . see if you can spot what the lifeguards and adults missed. a 10-year-old falls off a float and begins to drowned. he's there, head under water. precious minutes pass and no one notices he's on the bottom of the pool. finally after five long minutes, an adult swimmer finds him and pulls him out. it happened seven years ago. lifeguards, paramedics and doctors saved the child's life but he suffered permanent brain damage .
>> drowning is quick and it's silent. it can happen before an adult even gets to the pool. it happened so quickly.
>> reporter: the numbers are enough to scare any lifeguard. each year 390 kids under the age of 14 die in accidental drownings. 5200 kids require treatment in the er. drowning is the number one cause of death for kids five and under. in reston, virginia where hundreds of kids crowd into more than a dozen municipal pools every day, 240 red cross certified lifeguards keep a constant vigil.
>> i like to count how many people are in the pool so i know if anyone goes down.
>> call 911.
>> every day at one of reston's pools they conduct realistic drills to keep guards sharp.
>> i dove in the pool to swim and hit my head on the bottom.
>> one, two, three.
>> lifeguarding at public pools has been serious business for decades. ronald reagan himself saved 77 lives at a summer guard starting when he was in high school .
>> only takes a few seconds. a child or an adult, experienced swimmer or nonswimmer, anyone can get into trouble at any begin time.
>> reporter: it's a message the consumer product safe commission and red cross have tried to drive home.
>> you can never know which pool safety step will save a life. until it does.
>> reporter: experts say young children should never be more than an arm's length away from an adult. life rings and floats should be nearby. fence off private pools to keep kids out. use floating alarms to sound a warning should a child fall in. and in public pools, cpr trained lifeguards should never lose focus. the family in washington state was awarded more than $5 million for their child who suffered brain damage . it's just, yet again, yet another message to drive home, teach your kids to swim. savannah, back to you.
>> can't say it enough. tom