News Stories

New Safety Program Focuses on the Most Vulnerable In and Around Water: Children

Published Aug. 17, 2018

   During the warm weather months, families across the country will be spending more time enjoying lakes, ponds, rivers and ocean beaches. Being aware of the risks those open waters pose, and taking extra precautions, can keep those outings fun and prevent the tragedy of a drowning.

   Tragically, more than 1,000 children fatally drowned in 2016, the highest rate of drowning deaths since 2011.  And that number severely under represents the scope of the problem. While 1,000 children fatally drowned, an estimated 7,000 more ended up in the emergency room (ER) because of a drowning scare.  That means a minimum of 150 families a week were impacted by a tragic or frightening drowning event. Additionally, there are countless non-fatal drowning incidents that are not captured in ER data because a child is rescued on site.

  Once a child has tired usually within minutes, “it takes 20 seconds or less for a child to slip away quietly under the water,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wilmington District water safety official Carmen Boyette.  At this point, drowning victims cannot call out for help as they are struggling to keep their mouths above water.

   Safe Kids Worldwide (SKW) and Make Safe Happen, a program Nationwide, have joined forces to better understand the scope of the problem. This report focuses on drowning in open water settings. The goal is to help parents and caregivers to appreciate the nature of open water and to help families protect kids from the dangers open water poses.

   While drowning in swimming pools gets significant attention, the fact is that more children and teens fatally drown in open water. There is also an alarming difference in the number of fatal drowning's in open water by gender. More than 8 in 10 fatal open water drowning victims among children 0-19 years are male. The risk also increases with age, with children ages 15-19 years making up nearly half of open water deaths.

   Another disturbing disparity relates to race and ethnicity. American Indian/ Alaskan Native and Black/African American children fatally drown at higher rates than other races/ethnicities in open water, an issue that needs far more attention and preventative action.

   One factor contributing to drowning may be the expectation that because a child is able to swim in a pool, he/she will be safe in open water. However, open water, which includes both natural and man-made bodies of water (including lakes, rivers, reservoirs and retention ponds), has hidden hazards that increase the risk of drowning. These include sudden drop-offs, dangerous currents, vegetation and rocks, colder temperatures, difficult-to-judge distances, and limited visibility. These differences from the pool setting make it important that parents go to designated recreational areas whenever possible and consider the following tips:

 *  Watch kids when they are in or around water, without being distracted. Keep young children and inexperienced swimmers within arm’s reach of an adult. Make sure older children swim with a partner every time.

*  Designate a Water Watcher. When several responsible adults are present, choose one to watch children in or near the water for a certain period of time, such as 15 minutes. Adults can take turns with this assigned responsibility.

*  Make sure children learn how to swim. Every child is different, so enroll children in swim lessons when they are ready. Consider their age, development and how often they are around water when deciding if they are ready.

 For the complete report, visit the following site;