"If you're ever missing a child, the first place you always look is water because every second counts," Morgan Miller tells PEOPLE

By Karen Mizoguchi
May 21, 2021 10:41 AM
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Morgan and Bode Miller continue to speak up about water safety awareness.

The couple, who is expecting a baby in November, tells PEOPLE about their passion to prevent drowning-related deaths in children.

"What's the number one thing that can kill your kid? It's drowning," says Morgan, whose 19-month-old daughter Emeline died on June 9, 2018, after drowning in a neighbor's pool.

On that day, Morgan and Emmy had dropped by their neighbor's house in California's Orange County and was having tea when she suddenly noticed her little girl was nowhere in sight. Emmy had wandered out through an open door to the backyard and in the shallow end of the pool. Paramedics arrived and rushed Emmy to the hospital, where she died the next day.

The Millers say they continue their work around water safety, from speaking out about the need for "developing equipment to changing policy to writing legislation," because they "lost a child to something that should've never killed her."

Hundreds of children in the U.S. fall victim to drowning accidents each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "If you're ever missing a child, the first place you always look is water because every second counts. Know the information and what the dangers, the real dangers, are," the pregnant former athlete says. "Arm yourself with that information and take the appropriate steps."

bodemiller
Bode Miller and daughter Emeline
| Credit: Bode Miller/Instagram

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"The most important thing a parent can do is get your child equipped to deal with water," says Morgan, sharing that "we start our kids at 6 months [old]." But swimming lessons are only part of the solution, the couple says.

Equally important is making sure that pools are properly fenced in and equipped with alarms and locks that a child can't reach. Being vigilant whenever you're near a pool or open water with children is also crucial. "This is a problem we can solve — or at least mitigate the risks, if we take the right steps," Bode says.

The American Red Cross recommends protecting home pools with a gate. "Secure your pool with appropriate barriers. Completely surround your pool with a 4-feet high fence or barrier with a self-closing, self-latching gate. Place a safety cover on the pool or hot tub when not in use and remove any ladders or steps used for access. Consider installing a pool alarm that goes off if anyone enters the pool," the American Red Cross website states. Additionally, all pool toys should come out of the water when they're not in use, as they often entice young kids to jump in.

The American Red Cross advises parents to take first aid and CPR courses to help in an emergency and provides step-by-step instructions on their website, and offer classes around the country, found here.

"If kids can crawl, they need to know how to float. And if they can walk, they need to know how to swim," Morgan emphasizes. "It's about arming your children with the tools to navigate that situation — because it's the deadliest place they can be."