By Reach for the Wall Staff
The month of May is the official National Water Safety month, but as families head out for vacation these last few weeks of August, we thought to provide some key reminders. It seemed almost every month this summer there has been a news headline about an incident in the DC area where children have been saved from drowning or have died due to drowning. This issue is not isolated to the DC area, as noted in a World Health Organization fact sheet (updated May 2017), water safety and drowning are a global problem:
- Drowning is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths.
- There are an estimated 360,000 annual drowning deaths worldwide.
- Global estimates may significantly underestimate the actual public health problem related to drowning.
- Children, males and individuals with increased access to water are most at risk of drowning.
Further, from the 2014 global report on drowning,
- United States of America: drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in children aged 1–14 years.
When you go out to the pool, beach, lake, river, or bath, take the first step and Watch your Kids:
- Designate a water watcher when you are in, on, or around water.
- Watch all children and adolescents swimming or playing in or around water, even if they know how to swim.
- Young children or inexperienced swimmers need to be within arm’s reach of an adult at all times.
- Make sure a responsible person constantly watches young children in the bath.
- A water watcher is not a substitute for a lifeguard. Choose a lifeguard protected area if possible, and designate a water watcher.
- Prevention is the key role of a water watcher. Don’t wait for an emergency. Encourage safe activities and stop any unsafe or risky behaviors.
- For any child who is a non-swimmer or lacks water competency skills, the water watcher should provide “touch supervision”, be close enough to reach the child at all times to grab the child.
- Because drowning can be quick and quiet, the water watcher should pay constant attention, be undistracted, not be involved in any other activity (such as reading, playing cards, talking on the phone, or mowing the lawn) while supervising children, even if lifeguards are present.
- Parents, caregivers, aquatic facility owners, managers and operators should use multiple “layers of protection” to ensure safety
Across the country and in the DC area, there are many non-profit groups that have resources available to raise awareness and increase preparedness. One such organization is CPR Party™, whose sole mission is to increase awareness and spread the knowledge for potentially lifesaving techniques. In 2012, Laura Metro (Bethesda, MD) established CPR Party™ and is bringing CPR awareness and training to the masses. This summer her efforts attracted National attention as she was featured on Good Morning America and Nightly News with Lester Holt:
As shown in the video clip, the CPR Party™ event is a great way to get your friends together, gain some knowledge, and hone your CPR skills. Laura and CPR Party™ has made it easy to request an event through their website: CPR Party Request
On the National scene USA Swimming is also making a big push to educate and equip children and adults alike with life saving skills. In 2004 the USA Swimming Foundation was established and “works to strengthen the sport by saving lives and building champions—in the pool and in life. Whether equipping our children with the life-saving skill of learn-to-swim through our Make a Splash initiative, or providing financial support to our heroes on the U.S. National Team”. The Foundation directly funds the Make a Splash initiative which is driven to saving children’s lives through swim lessons. As stated on the Make a Splash website, their 3 main focus areas are:
- Raising Awareness – we want to educate YOU and the nation about how important it is to get children into swimming lessons! To see how we are educating parents, children, and communities all over America about the importance of learning to swim, check out the highlights from our annual Make a Splash Tour presented by Phillips 66.
- Aligning Partners – we are bringing together national organizations, community-based water safety coalitions and advocacy groups, and volunteers to help us spread our water safety message! Interested in joining one of our networks? Click here!
- Increasing Participation – our current goal is to reach 1 million children annually through our Make a Splash Local Partner swim lesson provider network by December 31, 2017!
Also through their website, the Make a Splash program provides resources for parents to Find Swim Lessons within their area and take the first step to becoming safer around the water.
Lastly, if you’re heading out the door or just arriving at your destination, spend a few minutes and have each of your family members Take the Safety Pledge. By taking the pledge, you are joining Olympians and others in taking action toward having a safe and enjoyable water experience!