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People and organizations in the drowning prevention and water safety space are well aware of the limitation of drowning statistics. Drowning data is not universally collected or classified mainly due the sheer nature of drowning which makes counting on reliable data extremely difficult. Few organizations have taken on the task to gather and distribute data pertaining to drowning and Total Aquatics Programming LLC is currently one of the most well known, respected and reliable sources.

Total Aquatic Programming and National Drowning Prevention Alliance Board of Directors have joined together to improve the “The Drowning Report” data. 

TAP has been collecting drowning data since 2008. This process involves about 1100-man hours per year plus cost for programs and support. They have recently faced the following challenges which have impelled them to rethink and reconsider the process in order to be more effective:

  • Some of the thousands of websites visited to gather report data have now  started charging subscription fees. While these are only .99 cents a week, they add up over the period of a year. 
  • Due to the number of sites consulted to gather information and download reports, TAP has been exposed (multiple times) to viruses and have had to move to enterprise grade protection. 
  • TAP users have requested many features that the organization was not able to offer before and is currently preparing to do: possibility of custom reports, online searchability features, ease of access and more.

It is time for TAP LLC to update the way they not only collect but also present the data gathered. This has a cost that they cannot totally absorb, and after talking to many users it is too important to just lose! They are nearly ready to move to a subscription-based model with an cost of $99.95 per year that will offer subscribers all the information they are used to plus:

  • Report filtering options
  • Custom reports (emailed on a customer set schedule)
  • Ability to submit drownings (requires approval)
  • Online and accessible 24/7 – no more waiting for the first of the month
  • Enhanced field logic
  • Alert notifications (new drownings in your area)
  • Much, Much More!

The new membership model will become effective by June 2021 with May 2021 featuring the last free version of drowning reports. NDPA premium members & all partners will be able to access the new database through their existing NDPA membership.

We hope this is a valuable service that you will continue to use. The new features will also allow members to more easily extract local data and customize reports.

Sign up is coming soon so be on the lookout!

The NDPA Webinar Series is an educational initiative that aims to offer expert insight on  a plurality of topics pertaining to water safety and drowning prevention throughout the year. 

Here’s a list of our first 10 webinar sessions that you can watch on our site now!

Our first webinar discussed the American Academy of Pediatrics updated statement on the prevention of drowning, with Dr. Julie Gilchrist and Nicole Hughes, founder of Levi’s Legacy.




Dr. Andrea Taliaferro along with Ailene Tisser, MA PT and Cindy Freedman, MOTR, CTRS, founders of Swim Angelfish, lead the discussion on water safety and drowning prevention for individuals with disabilities and autism.

Waves, temperature, currents, weather… they can all be obstacles to the practice of open water swimming. Guest speakers Mario Vittone and US Coast Guard Licensed Master Michael Carr.




This webinar covers what has worked well and what hasn’t for community water safety initiatives, how to connect with your community, how to gain support from your community, how to identify resources in your community, and other related topics.

This discussion covers federal water safety legislation with a focus on VGB and the proposed legislation on water safety education in schools in New Jersey with our expert panel which includes Alan Korn, J.D., Sean Kean, J.D., and Joe Oehme.




Led by Mick Nelson, the Facilities Development Senior Director at USA Swimming, this webinar is focused on drowning data and a discussion on the role that commercial aquatic facilities play in drowning prevention.

National Safe Boating Council‘s Executive Director, Peg Phillips, and Communication Director, Yvonne Pentz join us as we discuss life jacket use in the U.S., life jacket laws, and the “Wear It!” campaign.




How can more schools adopt water safety education programs? We answer this and other questions with the expertise of Stop Drowning Now and Colin’s Hope, both organizations that have existing and implemented drowning prevention curriculums in schools.

Physicians prescribing swim lessons to parents and children is a topic of great interest for most families in the U.S. Lana Whitehead, President of Water Smart Babies and Dr. Todd Vedder, MD with Atrium Health discuss it at length.




Our two guest experts in marketing and communication, Laura Metro, Owner of The Marketing Spirit and NDPA Board Member and Kent Nelson, Digital Marketing Specialist at Counsilman Hunsaker, discuss the ins and outs of navigating social media around a complex issue.

Don’t miss any of our upcoming webinars. Dates and topics will be announced on our social media profiles.

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Home pools and spas are, of course, drowning hazards which is why implementing layers of protection is so important.

Bearing in mind that drowning can happen in even a very little amount of water, think of all the other objects in your home that are full or potentially full of water: toilet bowls, unemptied tubs, sinks, bird baths, pet dishes… Babies and toddlers are naturally curious so having all these hazards in mind becomes increasingly important.

The following tips are meant to make your home safer:

Active Adult Supervision at All Times

  1. Your child must never be unattended when around water. Bear in mind that babies can drown in as little as one inch of water.
  2. When watching kids when they are in or around water, avoid any and all distractions. Keep young children within arm’s reach of an adult (touch supervision).

Empty Tubs and Buckets After Use

  1. Immediately drain the tub once bath time is over.
  2. Empty buckets, containers and kiddie pools as soon as they are no longer in use and store them upside down. This is so they don’t collect water.

Keep Lids and Doors Closed

  1. Close toilet lids and consider using toilet seat locks to prevent drowning.
  2. Keep doors to bathrooms and laundry rooms closed at all times.

Backyard Pools

  1. Watch kids when they are in or around water, without being distracted. Keep young children within arm’s reach of an adult. Make sure older children swim with a partner every time.
  2. When children are swimming and there are several adults present, make sure kids are actively supervised at all times by choosing a Water Watcher. A Water Watcher is a responsible adult who agrees to watch the kids in the water without distractions and wear a Water Watcher card. After a certain amount of time (such as 15-minutes), the Water Watcher card is passed to another adult, who is responsible for the active supervision. Download a Water Watcher card here.
  3. Install fences around home pools. A pool fence should surround all sides of the pool and be at least four feet tall with self-closing and self-latching gates.
  4. Teach children 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.
  5. Make sure kids learn how to swim and develop these five water survival skills:
  • step or jump into water over their heads and return to the surface;
  • float or tread water for one minute; 
  • turn around in a full circle and find an exit
  • swim 25 yards to exit the water; and
  • exit the water. If in a pool, be able to exit without using the ladder.

Learn CPR

  1. Know what to do in an emergency. Learning CPR and basic water rescue skills may help you save a child’s life.

Source: Safe Kids Worldwide

Water Safety USA is a roundtable of longstanding national nonprofit and governmental organizations with a strong record of providing drowning prevention and water safety programs, including public education.​

Water Safety USA logo
Be #WaterCautious. Prevent Unsupervised Access ​to Water

Water Safety USA’s mission is to empower people with resources, information, and tools to safely enjoy and benefit US aquatic environments. Its overarching approach is to engage in ongoing dialog aimed at improving the delivery of water safety information, tools and resources in such a way that their effectiveness is maximized.

The National Drowning Prevention Alliance is happy to announce that as of December 2019, the NDPA is an official member of Water Safety USA. “The NDPA is thrilled to announce our membership of such an important collective effort to combat drowning and make water safer.” said NDPA executive director Dr. Adam Katchmarchi. “We are proud and honored to join the roundtable and closely with other Water Safety USA members to enhance the mission of the NDPA.”

According to Water Safety USA, they have managed to harness the individual identities of each of its members as well as their objectives and further their reach through collective and collaborative strategies that are meant to increase the impact and effectiveness of our water safety and drowning prevention efforts.

With great satisfaction the NDPA joins the roundtable of equals that is Water Safety USA confident in the fact that will help us reach our ultimate goal of substantially reducing the number of unintentional drowning incidents and deaths reported in the United States of America.

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The re-posting of an opinion article from Slate entitled “Swim Lessons Won’t Keep Your Toddler From Drowning” on the NDPA’s Facebook Page sparked a passionate discussion about the use of swim lessons as a layer of protection to prevent drowning.

The NDPA thanks all of you for taking the time to comment and for your dedication and support of drowning prevention and we encourage respectful commentary. Given the nature of the commentary on this piece and on previous posts, the NDPA felt it important to provide clarity, define our position as the NDPA, and respond to key issues raised.

It is paramount to state first that the NDPA wholeheartedly believes that swimming lessons are an important layer of protection. At many points in the Facebook commentary, the NDPA was accused of attacking swim lessons as an ineffective way of preventing drowning. That is not accurate and it doesn’t not represent our beliefs as an organization.

We do however, believe that we cannot rely solely on one singular layer of protection to prevent drowning. We often cite swim lessons in this context as there have been many incidents in which skilled swimmers have drown. However, we also hold this same belief when it comes to other layers of protection. Pool fences are an important layer, and they can fail. As can self-closing, self-latching gates. One can forget to put a pool cover back on the pool and an alarm’s batteries can expire. Just like skilled swimmers can drown, layers of protection must operate in combination to truly work. This is why the NDPA encourages people to practice all layers of protection, including learning to swim from high quality lessons.

We are confident that many of you would agree, there is no quick and easy solution that will prevent all drowning. This reality is one of the reasons drowning has been so difficult to stop. The polarization and infighting amongst drowning prevention advocates has also played a major role. As an alliance, we represent all areas of water safety and drowning prevention. We support all layers of protection and, as the Alliance, we will not frame our messaging to focus only on one layer.

We appreciate the passion behind the support of learning to swim but if we only focus on the positive effects, we would be doing a disservice to our audience and the public at large. The author of the article in question was making a point that research shows that parents can become overly reliant on swim lessons as a method to protect their children from drowning. The author is not arguing that swimming lessons aren’t a vital part of protecting a child from drowning. Her point was to shed light on the fact that parent’s over estimate their child’s ability and the need for direct supervision after swimming lessons.

An important item we must address is the accusation that the NDPA is not citing research-based studies to support our stance. As the leading organization in drowning prevention and water safety, we firmly believe that research and evidence-based approaches are of paramount importance. While the NDPA did not write the article posted on our Facebook page, we will stand by the fact that the author does cite relevant research in drowning prevention literature. Please see the list of relevant published research studies below that are often used by the NDPA and some of which were discussed in the article in question.

The research published by Dr. Barbara Morrongiello in 2014 that this article cites is an example. The research showed that “as parents perceive their child to be accumulating swim skills, they increasingly believe that children are capable of keeping themselves from drowning, and as a result, that less active parent supervision of the child is necessary.” Obviously, the parent education component of a learn to swim lesson is vital for parents to fully understand the outcomes of swimming lessons. Parents need to appreciate their child’s abilities in the water after swim lessons and that no one of any age or ability level should swim by themselves. We as the NDPA are not insinuating that a swim instructor would claim that their swim lessons will “drown-proof a child”. However, the article points out that parents can make that assumption on their own, given the results of Dr. Morrongiello’s research.

Another example is related to the statistic that learning to swim will reduce the risk of drowning by 88%. This study was not conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), but by Dr. Ruth Brenner and her colleagues at the National Institute of Child Health and Development and published in 2009. We all applaud the AAP’s move to change the age recommendations and push for starting the learn to swim process at younger ages. However, this article points out important components of the research conducted in by Dr. Brenner and her associates that are often overlooked. We often hear the statistic from this study that participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88%. It is often missed that this research had a small sample size and the 95% confidence intervals regarding the protective effects were 3%-99%. There is no argument that this study is an important step forward and has been cited by the AAP as a key reason why they made their recent modifications. However, it is important to note that the team behind this study points to the limitations of their own research and that “swimming skills alone are insufficient to protect a child from drowning.”

There are several research studies below that we as the NDPA have also used in the past to support our stance on several issues. The insinuation that the NDPA does not support, does not believe in, or does not follow relevant evidence and research-based studies and advancements in drowning prevention and water safety is simply inaccurate, unfounded, and completely false. With all due respect, the comments that state the research cited is outdated and inconsistent, furthers the problem we are facing. An example is that AAP just modified their statement and stance regarding swimming lessons this year. That doesn’t make all previous research invalid or inaccurate. We may need to look at opinions, commentary, and research conducted or produced prior to that with the recent changes made in the front of our minds, however, that doesn’t mean we should toss aside any, and everything published prior to 2019. 

Additionally, we never intend to muddy the waters or create inconsistent messages in the drowning prevention space. Our true intent is to advance the discussion by sharing viewpoints, information, and educational content that pushes the drowning prevention and water safety community to have productive discussions addressing the problems we face. This isn’t easy and sometimes can lead to controversy. We are all working to reduce drowning, and as stated before and there is no cure-all to this awful tragedy. We may not always agree on a singular viewpoint. We may disagree with certain people’s opinions. We may find the results of a research study to be unhelpful or in direct contradiction of current messaging. Someone having a differing viewpoint or approach to solving a complex problem (like drowning), doesn’t make them wrong. Having an open discussion and addressing issues where there is disagreement is important and the only action that will advance our shared goals. The NDPA will continue to promote an open and honest discussion about drowning prevention and water safety that is factual, evidence based, and honest as this is our responsibility and role in this space.

Our goal by writing this blog article today is to inform our audience of our decision-making process and the NDPA’s stance on layers of protection as well as our role in the drowning prevention space. It is not to further any arguments or criticism that the NDPA received in relation to this opinion article and in many other instances when sharing various information on our Facebook page. We fully understand and appreciate how highly emotional this topic can be. Our goal is to reduce the number of awful tragedies that causes this to be such an emotional topic. While many disagree with the author or the opinion piece’s tone; we did not share this to support her tone. We shared this work to again shed light on the fact that we can’t be overly reliant on one layer of protection.

The nature of the NDPA as an “alliance” organization means that we, as an alliance, are all in this together. That does not mean its easy and we all agree on everything. But we all can agree drowning is preventable and that the use of multiple layers of protection save lives. With a complex issue such as drowning; the discussion, refinement, and education of the preventative measures will sometimes lead to situations where we find ourselves disagreeing with approaches, messaging, and each other. In these cases, we all need to remind ourselves and others that we share the same goal, to prevent drowning and to save lives.

List of Relevant Research Studies

Blitivich, J. D., Moran, K., Petrass, L. A., McElroy, G. K., & Stanley, T. (2012). Swim instructor beliefs about toddler and preschool swimming and water safety education. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 6(2), 110-121.

Brenner, R. A., Taneja, G. S., Haynie, D. L., Trumble, A. C., Qian, C., Kliner, R. M., & Klebanoff, M. A. (2009). Association between swimming lessons and drowning in childhood. Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, 163(3), 203-210. doi: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2008.563.

Golob, M. I., Giles, A. R., & Rich, K. M. (2013). Enhancing the relevance and effectiveness of water safety education for ethnic and racial minorities. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 7(1), 39-55.

Irwin, C. C., Irwin, R. L., Ryan, T. D., & Drayer, J. (2009). The mythology of swimming: Are myths impacting minority youth participation? International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 3(1), 10-23.

Irwin, C. C., Irwin, R. L., Ryan, T. D., & Drayer, J. (2009). Urban minority youth swimming (in)ability in the United States and associated demographic characteristics: Towards and drowning prevention plan. Injury Prevention, 15(4), 234-239.

Katchmarchi, A. B., Taliaferro, A. R., & Kipfer, H. J., (2017). Document analysis in drowning prevention education, International Journal of Injury Prevention & Safety Promotion. doi: 10.1080/17457300.2017.1341932

Lynch, T. J. (2012). Swimming and water safety: Reaching all children in Australian primary schools. Can you swim? An exploration of measuring real and perceived water competency. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 6(2), 267-278.

Martin, N. T., & Witman, D. (2010). Factors affecting minority drowning. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 4(1), 9-18.

Moran, K., Stallman, R. K., Kjendlie, P., Dahl, D., Blitvich, J. D., Petrass, L. A., … & Shimongata, S. (2012). Can you swim? An exploration of measuring real and perceived water competency. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 6(2), 122-135.

Moran, K. (2008). Will they sink or swim? New Zealand youth water safety knowledge and skills. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 2(2), 114-127.

Moran, K. (2008). Youth aquatic recreation: The pleasures and pitfalls of an aquatic lifestyle in New Zealand. In N.P. Beaulieu (Ed.), Physical activity and children: New research (pp. 35–63). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.

Moran, K. (2009). Parent/caregiver perception and practice of child water safety at the beach. International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion, 16(4), 215-221. doi: 10.1080/17457300903307045

Moran, K. (2009). Parents, pals, or pedagogues? How youth learn about water safety. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 3(2), 121-134

Moran, K., & Stanley T. (2006). Toddler drowning prevention: Teaching parents about water safety in conjunction with their child’s in-water lessons. International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion, 13(4), 254-256.

Morrongiello, B.A, Sandomierski, M., & Spence, J. R. (2013). Changes over swim lessons in parents’ perceptions of children’s supervision needs in drowning risk situations: “His swimming has improved so now he can keep himself safe.Health Psychology 32(9), 1-8. doi: 10.1037/a0033881

Ramos, W., Beale, A., Chamber, P., Dalke, S., Fielding, R., Kublick, L, … Wernicki, P. (2015). Primary and secondary drowning interventions: The American Red Cross circle of drowning prevention and chain of drowning survival, International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 9, 89-101. doi: 10.1123/ijare.2014-0045

Sbarbaro, V. S., & Enyeart Smith, T. M. (2011). An analysis of water safety behaviors among migrant and economically/educationally disadvantage middle school students. The Health Educator, 43(1), 21-28.

Stallman, R. K., Junge, M., & Blixt, T. (2008). The teaching of swimming based on a model derived from the cause of drowning.  International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 2(4), 372-382.

Yang, L., Nong, Q.M., Li, C., Feng, Q.M., Lo, & S.K. (2007). Risk factors for childhood drowning in rural regions of a developing country; A case-control study. Injury Prevention, 13(3), 178-182. doi: 10.1136/ip.2006.013409

Swim skills add a layer of protection to prevent drowning incidents.


Formal swimming lessons reduce the risk of drowning among children 1-4 years. This is the only sport that can actually save lives and can also reduce the risk of drowning among older individuals.

Everyone Should Learn To Swim 

Swimming is not an instinctive skill for humans. We can not survive in water unless we are taught how to swim. All adults and children should learn to swim.

Role of Swim Lessons 

Adults should be smart and aware and never consider children have been “drown proofed” because they’ve had swim lessons. Nothing will ever eliminate the risk of drowning because it simply doesn’t discriminate. Even an Olympic swimmer can drown.

When to Start 

Always speak with your pediatrician before considering any water safety/swimming lessons for children. With the right instruction, children can gain skills and a love for the water even at a young age.

The American Academy of Pediatrics updated their policy statement regarding drowning prevention stating that swim lessons are beneficial for children starting around age 1, and may lower drowning rates.

Once parents have decided their child is developmentally ready for swim lessons, they should proceed to look for a program that has experienced, well-trained instructors and fits their budget.

Include Water Safety Education 

Ensure that swim instruction includes water safety and survival education at the appropriate developmental level.

Ideally, programs should teach ‘water competency’ too – the ability to get out of the water if your child ends up in the water unexpectedly.

Selecting a Program 

Check if the instructor is trained in swim instruction, child development, and currently certified in CPR (some are not). Observe classes before enrollment and monitor lessons for safety skills, the effectiveness of the instructor, the child’s reception to learning, and progress. Lessons should be continuous, year-round, not taken for just one season as skills need to be developed and maintained for life.

Even the best swim lessons cannot “drown-proof” a child, and we strongly recommend parents take the necessary steps to make their child’s environment safer. For homes with a pool, the most important safety measure is a 4-sided fence that completely surrounds the pool and isolates it from the house.

More swimmers will result in a healthier society, fewer drownings, and reduced healthcare costs for the country.

June 10, 2019

Andrea Wells
Director, Marketing & Communications
awells@phta.org

PHTA Partner National Drowning Prevention Alliance Becomes a Proud Supporter

(ALEXANDRIA, VA)—The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA) is proud to announce that our safety partner the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA) supports the adoption of International Swimming Pool & Spa Code (ISPSC) to help save lives When adopted, the ISPSC will provide the country’s 13 -14 million backyard residential pools and spas the same level of high bather safety protection that the VGB mandates for the nation’s 300,000 public pools.

“The NDPA supports the adoption of the ISPSC in states and local jurisdictions around the country,” said NDPA Executive Director, Dr. Adam Katchmarchi. “We believe that the adoption of the ISPSC is a great step towards making pools and spas safer and look forward to help promote its adoption..”

The International Swimming Pool & Spa Code (ISPSC) is a comprehensive pool and spa code that regulates the minimum requirements for the design, construction, alteration and repair and maintenance of new residential and public pools and spas, including aboveground pools, waterparks, and factory built portable hot tubs.  It specifically addresses guidelines on how to comply with the VGB requirements for suction entrapment avoidance and layers of protection inhibiting unintended entry and drowning prevention.

“We’re encouraged for increased bather safety that the message is resonating and more and more of PHTA partners are supporting the adoption of the ISPSC, said PHTA Vice President of Standards and Technical , Carvin DiGiovanni.” “As we look toward the future, ISPSC adoption will enhance the safe use of our industry’s pools and spas reducing incidences while increasing the joy and health benefits they provide.” PHTA has always been on the forefront of ISPSC adoption.  We will continue to educate the industry and stakeholders on the value and benefits of the ISPSC.”

The great news is as of June 1,  21 states and 181 local jurisdictions have adopted it providing new safety protection for millions of residential swimming pool owners and users. Check out the full ISPSC Adoption Status Report at APSP.org/ISPSC.

PHTA offers the ISPSC for sale.  Purchase your copy at APSP.org/Store. For more information about ISPSC, visit APSP.org/ISPSC or email Carvin DiGiovanni at cdigiovanni@phta.org. 

About PHTA
The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance was formed in 2019, combining the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP) and the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF). With the mission to “Celebrate the Water,” PHTA facilitates the expansion of swimming, water safety and related research and outreach activities aimed at introducing more people to swimming, making swimming environments safer and keeping pools open to serve communities. For more information, visit APSP.org or NSPF.org.

The International Swimming Pool and Spa Code (ISPSC)

Drowning is still a leading cause of accidental death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1–4, the second leading cause for children under 14, and remains in the top five causes of accidental death up to age 55. Drowning is reported as the fifth leading cause of accidental death in the United States overall. It is worth noting that more children ages 1–4 die from accidental drowning than motor vehicle accidents. We seem to be in a repeating circle as our drowning numbers in the United States remain nearly steady year after year. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported that 163 children fatally drowned between Memorial Day and Labor Day in 2017; nearly 70 percent of them were children under the age of five. What can give us all hope is that drowning is a 100-percent preventable accident.

Prevention is the most important weapon against drowning and other aquatic incidents. Prevention is not a new concept when it comes to water safety. However, there is now a tool that puts prevention and safety at the forefront for both residential and commercial pools. The International Swimming Pool and Spa Code (ISPSC) is one of the most important documents ever to come out for the industry and the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA) is proud to support it. It contains everything a pool contractor needs to make the pool safe and operate efficiently. You may ask yourself why consistent codes and standards for pool and spa construction are important for the health and safety of the public. The best answer is that the ISPSC sets the minimum standard for pool and spa safety by substantially reducing the risk of child drowning through introducing or enhancing requirements for residential pools and spas. The adoption of the ISPSC can reduce drowning accidents by requiring barriers, compliant design and slopes for entry and exit, work towards the elimination of entrapment incidents once and for all, and ensure that pools and spas are built using approved and safe materials. As you can see, the ISPSC goes well beyond addressing safety.

Mandating change seems to work when dealing with pool and spa safety. Over 10 years have passed since the passage of the only federal law for pool safety in the United States. The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (VGB P&SS Act) has made a significant impact on the safety of commercial pools and spas. The mandating of unlockable drain covers and the installation of other anti-entrapment devices has resulted in no entrapment deaths in commercial pools and spas since the law was passed. Additionally, the access to safety information and advice for the consumer has increased substantially with the creation of the Pool Safely Campaign under the CPSC. It is important to note that when adopted, the ISPSC will mandate the same level of safety protection for residential backyard pools and spas that the VGB P&SS Act requires for public pools and spas. In addition, the CPSC has recognized the jurisdictions that have adopted the ISPSC as being eligible to apply for CPSC’s pool and spa training funds.

Organizations such as the NDPA and the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA; formerly the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals) have encouraged pool operators and owners to employ as many layers of protection as possible around swimming pools and spas. Simply put, the concept of layers of protection is a multi-faceted approach that includes a mix of supervision, barriers, alarms and safety devices to lessen the chance of a tragic incident. The more layers of protection put in place, the less chance an incident will occur. Layers of protection often include the following: fencing and barriers around water; self-closing, self-latching gates; hard-shell pool covers; door, window, gate and water alarms; ensuring the pool or spa has met all required codes; having rescue equipment near the pool or spa; learning CPR, first aid and teaching everyone to swim; always having responsible supervision around the water; and keeping the pool and spa area secure and free of toys and other attractive nuisances when not in use.

As simple as these safety steps can be to employ around a pool or spa, many unsafe pools and spas still exist. Since 2000, the fatal drowning rates in the United States have not seen a substantial drop. It is more imperative than ever that solutions are brought forward that can begin to make important and much-needed steps in the right direction. The ISPSC is an important part of the solution. The ISPSC is one of a kind as there is no other comprehensive model swimming pool and spa code available that addresses all types of pool and spas and all aspects of construction and design. Even though most states and local jurisdictions have some form of existing pool codes, most lack a comprehensive code or law that addresses all aspects of design, construction, and safety of residential pools and spas. Many jurisdictions around the country lack even minimal barrier and/or suction-fitting requirements in residential pools.

As a uniform building code that has been (as of this writing) adopted in 20 states and 171 local jurisdictions, the ISPSC is playing a vital role in changing the nature of safety in backyard pools and spas. When reviewing the ISPSC, one of the first things that comes to mind is the requirements for specific safety steps around pools and spas, including barriers and the use of alarms. As cited by national agencies and organizations, barriers and alarms are one of the most important components to reducing unsupervised pool access by children. While any type of new regulations can be a hard sell, this particular regulation is important for the pool and spa industry. We must make it our mission to make pool and spas safer to reduce both fatal and non-fatal drownings and other aquatic injuries. Creating safer pools and spas is essential to reducing the incidence of drowning. The ISPSC is a much-needed step in the right direction for both the commercial and residential industries in our goal of making water safer.

To contrast the impact of the ISPSC, there are approximately 300,000 public pools and spas currently protected by the VGB P&SS Act and in comparison, close to 13 million backyard pools and spas that are not. Adoption of the ISPSC achieves this goal. The objective must be to get the ISPSC adopted into law in order to have residential pools and spas achieve the same level of mandated safety protection that the VGB P&SS Act requires for public pools and spas. Simply put, the ISPCS, when adopted becomes the “VGB P&SS Act” for residential pools. Drowning impacts so many people each year and a promising tool is here to help. It is time to mandate change and implement the ISPSC so that our staggering statistics change for the better.

Statement of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance in Support of the International Swimming Pool & Spa Code

The International Swimming Pool and Spa Code (ISPSC) is a model code that regulates the minimum requirements for the design, construction, alteration, repair and maintenance of new or substantially re-modeled swimming pools, spas, hot tubs and aquatic facilities. This includes public swimming pools, public spas, public exercise spas, aquatic recreation facilities, permanent in-ground residential pools and spas, and permanent residential pools and spas among other water venues. The National Drowning Prevention Alliance supports the adoption of the ISPSC in states and local jurisdictions around the country. Many states and local jurisdictions have already done just that. More should follow suit.

Developed in collaboration with the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance, (PHTA; formerly the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals, APSP), ISPSC adoption provides many benefits supporting the safety and health of water. If adopted, the code requires pools and other water facilities to: meet the requirements of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act; meet the APSP–7 standard for suction entrapment avoidance; require layers of protection around pools and spas that help prevent the unfettered access by children, including fencing, covers, and door and window alarms; and ensures that water quality is healthy and safe, among many other safety and health provisions.

This article was originally published by the Building Safety Journal. Read it here.

Read the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance’s press release here.

Water Safety is defined as the procedures, precautions and policies associated with safety in, on and around bodies of water, where there is a risk of injury or drowning. It has applications in several occupations, sports and recreational activities, and above all at home and in real life.

Constant supervision is needed to avoid drowning incidents.

Since drowning is the number one cause of injury-related death among children between the ages of 1 and 5 and the second leading cause of death for children ages 1-14, water safety should be a priority for parents, teachers and caregivers. 

Drowning incidents don’t happen as portrayed on film and TV. They can be difficult to detect as drowning is an extremely silent event. Contrary to popular perception, there is little or no splashing to be seen, no sound involved. Children can drown in front of other children, adults and even lifeguards before anyone realizes what has happened.

It only takes a moment. A child or weak swimmer can drown in the time it takes to reply to a text message, check a fishing line or take a picture. Death and injury from drownings happen every day in domestic environments such as home pools, hot tubs, bathtubs even buckets and in open water like the beach or in oceans, lakes, rivers and streams.

Here are 5 water safety facts to keep in mind:

10 fatal drownings per day

In the U.S. drowning takes an average of 3,500 – 4,000 lives per year. That is an average of 10 fatal drownings per day. According to the CDC, from 2005-2014, there were an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the United States, which ia about ten deaths per day. An additional 332 people died each year from drowning in boating-related incidents. About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger.

Drowning is among the top 5 causes of unintentional injury

Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury related death for children ages 1-4. Drowning remains in the top 5 causes of unintentional injury related death from birth to 54 years old.

23% of child drownings happen during a family gathering near a pool

CDC data show that in children most drownings occur in residential swimming pools while in adults, most drownings occur in natural waters. Most child drownings occur when children get into the pool on their  own. The CDC found that most young children who drowned in pools were last seen in the home, had been out of sight less than five minutes, and the majority of these drownings took place in the midst of a family reunion or gathering.

Learning to swim can reduce the risk of drowning by 88%

Learning to swim can reduce the risk of drowning by 88% for 1-4 year olds who take formal swim lessons. Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that swim lessons can reduce the risk of drowning up to 88%.  In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics modified their recommendations about swim lessons, citing studies that show most children over the age of one may be at lower risk of drowning if they have some formal swimming instruction.

Drowning is fast and silent. 

Drowning can happen in as little as 20-60 seconds, the time it takes to apply some sunscreen or post a tweet on social media. Movies depict drowning as flailing and screaming for help but in reality this is not the case. Drowning is quick, silent and deadly and unless you’re a trained professional you may miss the signs of drowning all together. Drowning victims seldom have the time, energy or air to call for help. There aren’t any flailing arms or big splashing to catch onlookers’ attention. 

Education is key to prevent unintentional drownings. The NDPA relies on donations from our members, friends, and supporters to continue our work. With your support we can continue to bring people, groups, and leaders together to prevent drownings. Remember our mission – “Together WE can PREVENT the tragedy of drowning!”

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