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  • Millions of children missed the opportunity to participate in formal swimming lessons last season due to the pandemic, creating an urgent need for water safety training and swim lessons this summer. TEAM WLSL™ is getting back on deck to send the message Swimming Lessons Save Lives™ to help prevent childhood drowning and teach families how to Be Water Aware.  
  • The 2021 World’s Largest Swimming Lesson will offer hundreds of aquatic centers, swim schools and waterparks the chance to focus in on the urgency of getting kids back in the water for formal swim lessons to help make up for the lessons and water safety training they missed in 2020.
  • What is exciting about the WLSL event is that so many organizations and individual aquatic facilities are coming together to make it happen. The WLSL helps capture all the passion we have for this critical issue as individuals and focuses all that energy on one message for one day.
  • Drowning is a public health crisis. In the U.S., it’s the leading cause of accidental death for kids ages 1-4 and the second leading cause for kids 14 and under. Yet, a large percentage of adults don’t recognize this risk or provide the right layers of protection to prevent drowning.
  • Internationally, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that drowning is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths. 
  • According to a 2020 research study conducted by the American Red Cross, more than half (54%) of U.S. kids ages 4-17 are not able to perform the basic water safety skills that can save their life.
  • More drowning and near drowning incidents take place in the U.S during the month of June than any other month of the year.
  • According to a 2018 report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), from 2015 through 2017, an estimated average of 6,400 children younger than 15 years old were reportedly treated in hospital emergency rooms for nonfatal drowning injuries in pools or spas.
  • Nearly 80% of drowning victims are male.  Also, African-American children ages 5 to 19 drown at rates 5.5 times higher than Caucasian children. This disparity is greatest among those 11-12 years where African Americans drown in swimming pools at rates 10 times those of Caucasians.
  • Drowning is predictable, incredibly fast and quiet: Most children who drown are out of sight for less than 5 minutes. Drowning can occur in as little as two minutes and victims do not signal for help. In addition, 70% of drownings happen during non-swim times.
  • Research shows participation in formal swimming lessons by kids ages 1-4 can significantly reduce the risk of drowning, yet many children still do not participate in formal water safety training or swimming lessons.
  • The World’s Largest Swimming Lesson was created in 2010 as a platform to support public education about safer water practices and to build awareness about the critical importance of teaching children to swim to help prevent drowning. 
  • Since its inception, more than 320,000 children and adults have participated in life-saving WLSL lessons, generating more than two BILLION media impressions about the vital importance of learning to swim. 
  • TEAM WLSL™ has set five multi-venue and three single venue Guinness® World Records since the program began in 2010.

TEAM WLSL™ is on a mission to make sure every parent understands the critical importance of teaching kids to swim and how to Be Water Aware to prevent drowning.

Show your support by sharing this important message.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states the sad fact that more than 3,500 people drown each year in the U.S, making drowning the leading cause of death in children 1 – 4 years old. Even more sad, minorities drown at a rate three times higher than their peers.

Diversity is directly linked to the opportunity to be water safe. As we are well aware, aquatics suffers from lack of diversity, enforcing a system where the access to learning how to swim and gain water competency are not the same for everyone.

Between 1999-2010, the fatal unintentional drowning rate for African Americans was significantly higher than that of whites across all ages. The disparity is widest among children 5-18 years old and is most pronounced in swimming pools. African American children 5-19 drown in swimming pools at rates 5.5 times higher than those of whites. This disparity is greatest among those 11-12 years in which African Americans drown in swimming pools at rates 10 times those of whites.(1)

Factors such as access to swimming pools, the desire or lack of desire to learn how to swim, and choosing water-related recreational activities may contribute to the racial differences in drowning rates. Available rates are based on population, not on participation. If rates could be determined by actual participation in water-related activities, the disparity in minorities’ drowning rates compared to whites would be much greater.(2)

Many organizations and advocates are striving to bring swimming to minority communities and thus reduce the incidence of drowning among them. Here are a few that you can support:

Diversity In Aquatics 

The drowning and participation gaps in aquatics mirror the disparities we find in public health and education, often ignoring the ongoing historical issues of race, socioeconomic circumstances, and cultural stereotyping. Therefore, a revamped focus is needed to address and help curve the current gaps found in aquatics.

Founded by Dr. Shaun Anderson and Jayson Jackson in 2010, Diversity In Aquatics is an organization built to develop a network to help save lives by empowering communities to have equitable access to quality aquatic opportunities. They work to address historical policies and practices that impact resource allocation and access to public spaces to understand present-day aquatic disparities.

Afroswimmers

AfroSwimmers is a swim movement that offers lessons and aquatic wellness services for people of color, founded by swim coach and aquatic healer Noelle Singleton.

AfroSwimmers boasts a facility in Atlanta where programs — including competitive coaching, aquatic therapy, and private swimming lessons — are offered to help break down barriers between the Black community and swimming.

Black People Will Swim

Black People Will Swim’s sole mission is plain and simple: it’s smashing the stereotype that Black people don’t swim. Their end game is to make a difference in the world of aquatics.

They aim to do this through a number of ways with their acronym F.A.C.E. encouraging their community to FACE their fears.

Swim Uphill

Founded by paralympic swimmer Jamal Hill, this organization has made it its mission to take justice against senseless drownings by promoting water safety competency through the Swim Uphill method in underserved communities around the globe.

Black Kids Swim

Black Kids Swim is a 501c3 organization based in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Their mission is to increase Black participation in the sport of competitive swimming. They also offer their consultancy services to aquatic facilities that wish to include a diverse group of adults and/or children to their programs.

The Josh Project

The Josh Project is a drowning prevention agency dedicated to water safety training and education. Their mission is to build basic swimming skills and knowledge of water safety to prevent drowning.

SwemKids

SwemKids is nonprofit school-based program that teaches children introductory swimming lessons and water safety skills as a part of their school’s curriculum. This model ensures that children are exposed to the water early and gain important life-saving skills to make sure they are safe while having fun!

Black Swimming Association

The Black Swimming Association (BSA) is a non-profit organisation set up to promote education among the Black community as well as other ethnic minority communities on water safety and drowning prevention measures.

They strive to ensure that the issues that preclude these communities from engaging in aquatics are researched, understood and  adequately addressed to promote inclusion and change.

  1. Gilchrist J, Parker EM. Racial/ethnic disparities in fatal unintentional drowning among persons aged ≤29 years—United States, 1999–2010. MMWR 2014;63:421–6.
  1. Branche CM, Dellinger AM, Sleet DA, Gilchrist J, Olson SJ. Unintentional injuries: the burden, risks and preventive strategies to address diversity. In: Livingston IL, editor.  Praeger handbook of Black American health (2nd edition): Policies and issues behind disparities in health. Westport (CT): Praeger Publishers; 2004. p. 317-27.

Drowning is a complex problem. To be effective, organizations need to leverage their strengths and work together to have the greatest impact.

The NDPA can help you make those connections and to have the greatest impact.  Join the alliance and empower your communities to take more action, touch more lives, and make an even greater difference.

Become An NDPA Member

By becoming an NDPA member (Basic or Premium) you or your organization will be contributing to the NDPA’s overall mission to prevent drowning and gain access to resources that advance drowning prevention. Drowning IS Preventable, and with your membership and support, we can work together to help save lives.

Become An NDPA Partner

Organizational partners of the NDPA are the backbone of our organization. The National Drowning Prevention Alliance is very excited to partner with your organization or company and work together for the common goal of ZERO drownings. As the NDPA starts a new phase of growth as an organization we welcome the opportunity to seek out new partners that will be help the NDPA on this journey to provide educational resources, increase water safety, and expand our impact towards water safety and drowning prevention for people of all ages and walks of life.

Become An NDPA Sponsor

There are a number of ways you can help support the work of the NDPA and our annual conference. To learn more about sponsorship opportunities, please download and view our annual sponsorship guide or our annual major gift guide 

Make The NDPA Your Amazon Smile

Make the NDPA your Amazon Smile and each time you make an eligible purchase on Amazon the NDPA will receive a percentage of your purchase total as a donation. It’s as simple as clicking the link below to make the NDPA your Amazon Smile. Shop and support the NDPA at the same time!

Make a Donation

The NDPA also 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!”

NDPA Sustaining sponsor blog cover

The National Water Safety Conference, hosted by the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA) is the nation’s leading annual event devoted to drowning prevention and water safety. The conference is hosted for the cross-section of the industry and is built on a foundation of top thought leadership and education.

It is thanks to the commitment and continued support of our sustaining sponsors that our flagship conference reaches a national and global audience, offering intelligent, engaging and relevant content to all attendees.

For everything NDPA Sustaining Sponsors have done for us in the past, everything they still do and will continue to do, we at the National Drowning Prevention Alliance are thankful and excited about all the possibilities we see in a prosperous future together.

https://us.ddtech.com/

D&D Technologies is a company dedicated to the design and manufacture of quality, state-of the-art gate latches, locks and hinges.

D&D Technologies now enjoys a reputation as the #1 gate hardware designer in the world, with established markets in Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, South America, the UK and Europe. They confidently guarantee the highest quality of the products they sell. With options available for all gate applications and materials D&D hardware is ISO tested and certified to the most stringent standards.

While they are in the business of profit, they are also very proud of the fact their products save children’s lives. They give back to the community with strong financial and practical support of child-drowning-prevention organisations worldwide such as the NDPA. It’s all part of their passion and commitment.

https://www.cvent.com/

Cvent offers software solutions to event planners and marketers for online event registration, venue selection, event management and marketing, onsite solutions, and attendee engagement. #Cvent’s suite of products automate and simplify the planning process to maximize the impact of events.

With their support, the NDPA has managed to take the National Water Safety Conference to the next level as a virtual event.

https://counsilmanhunsaker.com/

For more than 45 years, Counsilman-Hunsaker has led the industry by completing more than 1,000 national and international aquatic projects of every size and complexity. In fact, many of the innovations that are now standard in the industry were conceived at Counsilman-Hunsaker.

The NDPA thanks them for their commitment to the audiovisual aspects of the National Water Safety Conference. Their effort, time and support have contributed to the continued success of this annual event.

https://www.familiesunitedtopreventdrowning.org/

Families United to Prevent Drowning is a group of people connected for the worst possible reason: the loss or near loss of someone we love to a water tragedy. Through Families United, we join to create one voice. Together we say, “Not one more drowning.”

Though their stories were different, the end result was undeniably the same: drowning is preventable. These shattered families forged a union that would create one singular, shared vision for the future. Stronger together than apart. Today, that group is 60 families strong. And sadly, growing.

https://www.ipssa.com/

The Independent Pool and Spa Service Association, Inc. exists for the mutual professional benefit and growth of its members and for the continued improvement of the pool and spa industry.

https://michaelphelpsfoundation.org/

Upon returning home to the U.S. after competing in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Michael launched the Michael Phelps Foundation and embarked upon an eight-city tour across the country to share his Dream, Plan, Reach message with Boys & Girls Clubs of America members.

In 2009, along with the help of KidsHealth.org and Michael Phelps Swimming, we developed our signature program, IM. IM is a water-safety, physical and mental wellness, and goal-setting program for Boys & Girls Clubs of America members and Special Olympics International athletes.

https://www.phta.org/

The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance protects and advances the common interests of the industry by providing education, advocacy, standards development, research, and market growth to increase our members’ professionalism, knowledge and profitabilit

It is their core purpose to promote safe and healthy pool and hot tub environments for people to share enjoyable aquatic experiences.

https://www.usaswimming.org/foundation/

Serving as the philanthropic arm of USA Swimming, the USA Swimming Foundation works to strengthen the sport by saving lives and building champions. By equipping our children with the life-saving skill of learn-to-swim and providing financial support to our heroes on the U.S. National Team, the USA Swimming Foundation aims to provide the wonderful experience of swimming to kids at all levels across the country.

https://www.iccsafe.org/

The International Code Council is the leading global source of model codes and standards and building safety solutions that include product evaluation, accreditation, technology, training, and certification. The Code Council’s codes, standards, and solutions are used to ensure safe, affordable, and sustainable communities and buildings worldwide.

https://joshtheotter.org/

The Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation‘s mission is to educate children and adults worldwide about water safety through the utilization of drowning prevention campaigns & early childhood water safety training.

https://www.misstristan.com/

Miss Tristan Foundation was formed to ensure that Tristan Lynn Byrd would live on through the organization’s drowning prevention efforts. They are dedicated to raise water safety awareness through education of children and adults in and around spas, pools, and open bodies of water

Learning is a continuous process that is incredibly important in the water safety space, allowing us to stay up to date on current news, research and numbers. Learning not only happens in traditional settings such as workshops and training courses, but also through discussions with colleagues, sharing practical experience, and consulting newsletters, books, published research papers and audiovisual materials. 

The NDPA Resource Center strives to improve access to relevant information by collecting, categorizing and organizing materials that are useful to all members of the aquatics industry and drowning prevention advocates.

This new and exciting tool contains the following features:

  • NDPA Partner Directory
  • Drowning Prevention & Water Safety Resource Directory
  • Sharable Drowning Prevention Social Media Content
  • Resources for Task Forces & Coalitions
  • An Index of Drowning Prevention & Water Safety Literature containing over 300 entries
  • An Index of over 60 Regional, State, and National Water Safety, Drowning, and Injury Databases
  • NDPA & National Water Safety Conference Media Library

and so much more exclusively for NDPA Members.

Basic members enjoy the following benefits:

  • Use of the NDPA Member Logo.
  • Listed in NDPA Member directory.
  • Receive ALL NDPA Communications including the newsletter.
  • Free access to resources from the NDPA and our Partners.
  • Show your clients, friends, and family that you are part of the alliance to prevent drowning.
  • Task Force & Coalition Resources
  • Advocacy Information
  • Over 100 shareable drowning prevention social media images, infographics, and videos.

The following are the benefits reserved for Premium members:

  • $50 off 1 conference registration at Early Bird or Regular Rate.
  • Use of NDPA Member Logo.
  • Newsletter and communication subscription.
  • Free access to resources from the NDPA and our Partners.
  • Prime listing in NDPA Member directory.
  • Show your clients, friends, and family that you are part of the alliance to prevent drowning.
  • All Basic Member Benefits
  • NDPA Member & Partner Directory Access
  • Access to our Drowning Literature Directory that includes an index of over 300 research studies, reports, and other literature.
  • Access to our Drowning Data Hub that provides easy access to over 60 drowning and injury databases from across the United States.
  • Access to the NDPA Premium Video library that includes all past NDPA Webinars, select conference presentations, and more!

Diversity in Aquatics CEO Miriam Lynch, Communications and Engagement Director Danielle Veira, and Strategist and Social Innovator Michael Golden Join Board Of National Water Safety Nonprofit

GREENWICH, CT  September 16, 2020 The ZAC Foundation, a national nonprofit dedicated to improving water safety by funding advocacy, education, and effective programming to safeguard children and their families, today announced the appointment of three new Board members: Diversity in Aquatics CEO Miriam Lynch, communications and engagement director Danielle Veira, and strategist and social innovator Michael Golden. The appointments are effective immediately.

“We are pleased to welcome Miriam, Danielle and Michael to our Board, and look forward to having their invaluable perspectives and leadership,” said Karen Cohn, co-founder of The ZAC Foundation, which has provided water safety programming to more than 20,000 children in at-risk communities nationwide and is spearheading the development of drowning prevention plans in four U.S. communities in the hopes of reducing the national drowning rate. “Each of them will serve a key role as we continue our work to prepare children and their families for a lifetime of water safety.”

Lynch is an advocate for increasing aquatic opportunities and water safety education to all. She collaborates with several aquatic organizations to raise awareness, create community partnerships, and develop solutions to reduce the “drowning gap.” As the CEO of Diversity in Aquatics, Lynch, along with a team of volunteers, works to educate, promote, and support swimming, water safety, and healthy aquatic activities in traditionally underrepresented populations.

“I am excited to join the Board of The ZAC Foundation, which is committed to creating equitable opportunities in aquatics by increasing access to swim lessons and water safety education for children and families in communities that have been impacted by historical and social barriers,” said Lynch. 

Veira is the director of communications and engagement at A Better Chicago, a nonprofit venture philanthropy fund fighting poverty by investing in opportunities for Black and Latinx low-income youth. She leads the organization’s strategic communications, digital marketing, and thought leadership efforts. Prior to moving to Chicago, Veira spent more than a decade in Washington, DC working in nonprofit communications, most recently as the senior manager of public relations and advocacy communications at the American Diabetes Association.

“It is an honor to be appointed to the Board of The ZAC Foundation,” said Veira. “I have been inspired and impressed by the Foundation’s work for years and lucky enough to see the impact ZAC Camps make firsthand. Children who look like me face a variety of disparities whether it’s access to health care, quality education or water safety training. As a child of the Caribbean and a lover of swimming myself, I am thrilled to have this opportunity to work alongside my fellow Board members to further the Foundation’s outstanding work to eradicate systemic inequities related to water safety and drowning prevention.” 

A social entrepreneur, former award-winning journalist, campaign strategist and political reformer, Golden is president of Golden Mean Strategies in Chicago. He has dedicated the bulk of his career to launching social enterprises that create opportunity in underserved communities. In 2006, he co-founded One Million Degrees, a breakthrough scholarship support program that has empowered more than 1,800 low-income community college students to succeed in school, work and life.

“Joining the Board of The ZAC Foundation is more than an honor for me — it is personal. I loved Zachary, and the entire Cohn family is like my own family. I am tremendously proud and in awe of what they have built in Zach’s name: a huge-hearted water safety organization that works to save lives in every corner of this country. It will be a genuine thrill to contribute to their mission as a new member of the Board of Directors,” said Golden. 

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About The ZAC Foundation

The ZAC Foundation was established in 2008 by Karen and Brian Cohn after the loss of their 6-year-old son Zachary Archer Cohn in a pool drain entrapment in their backyard swimming pool. Through education and advocacy, the Foundation has educated more than 20,000 children and their families on the importance of water safety and is dedicated to continue preparing more for a lifetime of water safety. To learn more about The ZAC Foundation, connect with the organization on Facebook and TheZACFoundation.org

The following is a petition available via Change.org relating to the need to teach every child how to swim in the state of Florida:

Teaching kids, teens and even adults how to be safe near and in the water as well as what to do if anything ever goes wrong is paramount to prevent unintentional drowning incidents, both fatal and non-fatal.

The following programs have been designed to offer proper guidance in the matter and can be added to any school or homeschool curriculum.

Stop Drowning Now

The Safer 3 in the classroom

Stop Drowning Now’s Water Safety Curriculum teaches kids how to recognize drowning risks and to protect themselves and others. The Curriculum is specifically designed for young kids’ learning needs. Through an experiential approach, kids participate in the discovery and identification process, and learn preventative measures as well as emergency responses.

Water Safety With Colin & Friends

Water Safety With Colin & Friends is a comprehensive water safety education tool. The classroom-based curriculum focuses on 5 key rules that can help children make safer choices around all types of water, such as waiting for an adult before going in or near water and wearing a life jacket. The full kit includes activities like songs, water safety games, and even a science experiment. The program is evidence-based, continues to be evaluated for efficacy, and has been proven with statistical significance to increase children’s water safety knowledge!

Kidshealth In The Classroom

KidsHealth in the Classroom by Nemours offers educators free health-related lesson plans for PreK through 12th grade. Each Teacher’s Guide includes discussion questions, classroom activities and extensions, printable handouts, and quizzes and answer keys all aligned to National Health Education Standards.

For water safety educational resources search under Personal Health.

Josh The Otter Water Safety & Awareness Project

Drowning is preventable. Teach this life-saving message.


Demonstrate the importance of water safety with Josh the Baby Otter. This guide will help you educate young children about drowning prevention through a fun and interactive classroom activity.

Water Smart Education Toolkit

Curriculum materials to teach Water Safety have been developed by Royal Life Saving Australia together with education resource specialists, teachers and water safety instructors.

The teaching resources in the Water Smart education toolkit outline appropriate learning outcomes and have taken into consideration the new Australian National Curriculum for all years from Foundation to Year 10. The key components of the resource toolkit include Units of Work, Teachers Notes, Activity Sheets, Safety Tips and Supplementary Resources.

Curriculum Swimming and Water Safety Resource Pack

Swim England and the Swim Group have created a resource pack for all those involved in the delivery of curriculum swimming and water safety.

The resource pack has been split into four to provide dedicated information for each  group. Each section provides practical guidance on how to plan, deliver and report on curriculum swimming and water safety.

Water Safety Resources 

Teachers Pay Teachers is a great database for educators to find the resources, knowledge, and inspiration they need to teach at their best. They offer more than 3 million free and paid resources, created by educators who understand what works in the classroom and have a great selection of water safety materials that can be used in the classroom for kids from PreK to 12th grade.

Water safety resources for teachers

Water Safety for Kids

The American Red Cross offers resources to help your child learn about water safety while having fun in and around water.

Lakes, beaches and rivers are popular destinations for families during the summer season. It’s the best way to have some fun family time and remain cool as soon as temperatures rise but it’s not without risk.

Most children in the U.S. drown in open water which includes natural bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, and oceans as well as man-made bodies of water like canals, reservoirs, and retention ponds. In 2016, open water drownings made up 43 percent of fatal childhood drownings.*

Beaches are a favorite destination during the summer months

The first thing needed to prevent drowning incidents when in open water is learning how to swim which has proven to be a lifesaving skill that can reduce the chances of drowning by 88%. Following the tips below will also ensure you have the most amount of fun by reducing the risks and hazards that come with open water.

1.- Swim in a designated swimming area
Most state parks, beaches, and lakefront areas have designated times where swimming is allowed and use flags to indicate borders in which people can swim. Never swim outside those defined areas. Also, preferably swim under the supervision of a qualified lifeguard.

2.- When in doubt, get out
Don’t hesitate to get out of the water if something doesn’t feel right. Whether it’s that the current is getting rough, rain has started to fall or your body is just not responding like you would like it to due to fatigue or muscle cramps, then just leave and return to the water another day. It’s always a good thing to trust your instincts.

3.- Know the conditions
Check the water temperature and weather conditions before hitting the water. If the water temperature is low, your best option would be to swim with a wetsuit and don’t stay too long in the water. Bear in mind it’s not safe to swim in the rain, particularly if there is thunder and lightning. If the weather changes, don’t hesitate to swim back shore.

4.- Never Swim Alone
When you head out into the open water, go with a “swim buddy”, someone who’s looking out for you and who you’re looking out for in turn. Remember the lifeguard isn’t your “swim buddy”; they have lots of people to track when on duty and cannot be concerned with a particular person’s safety. Besides, you’ll probably have more fun swimming with a friend.

5.- Choose the right equipment
It’s very important to always choose the right equipment for your open water activity: wetsuits if the water is cold, goggles if swimming, and so on. Please note that if water temperatures are over 75-80 degrees, a wetsuit might not be a good idea. Using one for extended periods could cause heat exhaustion.

6.- Understand currents
Uncontrollables are all part of experiencing the ocean and open bodies of water. Rip tides, other currents and waves can all sweep you away from your swimming route. By choosing a static “beacon” on your boat or at the shore you’ll be able to determine if you are being swept away or not. If you do get caught in a riptide, don’t panic. Try to remain calm and swim parallel to shore to get out of it. If you try to swim against the current, you might get exhausted and really panic even more.

7.- No Alcohol
Alcohol affects your perception of danger, making you more likely to take unnecessary risks. Alcohol also impairs your balance and coordination – all essential for swimming and boating and avoiding hazards in the water. So don’t drink while in the water.

8.- Wear USCG-approved life vest
Young children, weak swimmers and everybody in general should wear life jackets whenever they are in, on or around the water, even at a pool or a waterpark. It should be put on at the dock, deck or shore and not taken off until you return to dry land.

9.- Have A Plan For Emergencies
Always have a plan to handle and face emergencies whenever you go out to the water with a swim buddy or alone. Tell someone else where you are going. Having someone watching from the shore, ready to take action should you need any help, is a wise decision. Plan for every possible incident and eliminate as much uncertainty as possible.

10.- Swim parallel to the shore
If ever caught in a rip current, don’t let fear cloud your judgement. You could be swept away from shore very quickly. The best way to escape a rip current is by swimming parallel to the shore instead of towards it, since most rip currents are an average of 100 feet wide. Try to relax and breathe keeping your head above water, and don’t wear yourself out by trying to get out of the rip by swimming against the force of the current.

*Source: Hidden Hazards: An Exploration of Open Water Drowning and Risks for Children. Safe Kids Worldwide. May 2018.

Water Safety USA, a consortium of national nonprofit and governmental organizations focused on drowning prevention, has announced its water safety message for 2020. “#BeBuoyant: Life Jackets Save Lives.” A properly fit life jacket is a very effective life-saving strategy in the quest to reduce the number of fatal drowning incidents in the country.

Who should wear a life jacket?

  • Anyone participating in any boating, paddling or towed water sport regardless of swimming ability.
  • Inexperienced or non-swimmers in pool or open water situations when other layers of protection are limited.
  • Preschool children—those about 5 years and younger—who are not protected by touch supervision either in or near the water. Touch supervision means being within an arm’s reach of the child(ren) at all times.


In addition, it is recommended that everyone who is in or around open water wear a life jacket as an extra layer of protection, especially outside of a lifeguarded area.

Anyone participating in any boating, paddling or towed water sports regardless of swimming ability.
​Wearing a U.S. Coast Guard-approved properly fitted life jacket is the simplest life-saving strategy for recreational boating, paddling or towed water sports.

According to U.S. Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics in 2018 there were 4,145 reported accidents, 2,511 reported injuries, and 633 deaths on our nation’s waterways. A majority of those deaths (77%) were due to drowning and 84% of those were not wearing a life jacket. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers statistics show that for the last ten years most of the water-related fatalities that occurred at their lake and river projects were men (87%) age 18 and older (86%) and 87% were not wearing a life jacket.

Many people who participate in boating or a boating activity including fishing, hunting, paddling and towed water sports generally don’t think they will drown because they know how to swim, don’t plan on getting in the water, or it is a nice calm day so nothing is going to happen. Alcohol can impair one’s judgment and abilities in and around water. While enjoying your favorite boating activity please keep in mind that there is always a risk of drowning so expect the unexpected and prepare for it by wearing a properly fitted life jacket.

Inexperienced or non-swimmers in pool or open water situations when other layers of protection are limited.
Most people associate life jackets with boating, but they can also help provide support for inexperienced and non-swimmers in or around water, including open water, such as lakes, oceans, ponds, reservoirs and rivers, as well as controlled environments, such as a pool, waterpark or lifeguarded beach. Almost half of 10 to 17-year old’s who fatally drowned could swim according to available information on swimming in the National Child Death Case Reporting System for 2005-2014.

Inexperienced or non-swimmers, particularly children, are at risk in these settings when supervision lapses or the venue is very crowded. Life jackets provide an additional layer of protection in these situations.

Preschool children—those about 5 years and younger—who are not protected by touch supervision; Touch supervision means staying within an arm’s reach of the child(ren) at all times. An analysis of child death review data found that supervision was missing almost half of the time that a child fatally drowned in a pool.

Swimming aids and water toys, such as water wings, and inflatable water wings and rings, are toys. They may provide some buoyancy in the water, but they do not prevent drowning.

Parents should remain attentive even if their children are skilled at swimming and comfortable in the water. Even though a child has become comfortable in the water, and with wearing a life jacket, constant supervision is still needed when they are in or around the water. Young children do not have the developmental maturity to reliably or consistently follow directions or safe practices, to have judgment or the ability to recognize risks.

Everyone needs to learn how to swim without a life jacket. Can’t swim? Enroll yourself and your children in swim lessons/water orientation classes to experience being in the water without a life jacket. Continue the journey of learning to swim and regularly getting in a pool with your children without life jackets.


In addition, it is recommended that everyone who is in or around open water wear a life jacket as an extra layer of protection, especially outside of a lifeguarded area.
While drowning in swimming pools gets significant attention, the fact is that more Americans fatally drown in open water. More than half of fatal and nonfatal drownings among teens and young adults ages 15 and older (57% each) occur in natural water settings.

There is also an alarming difference in the number of fatal drownings in open water by gender, with males, and particularly teens and young adult males, at greatest risk. (84% of open water drownings in children ages 0-19 occurring in males, with males 10 to 14 years old 15.4 times the risk compared to females).

​Adults are also at risk. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has found that the majority of water-related fatalities that occurred at USACE lake and river projects nationwide were people age 18 or older (86%), male (87%), not wearing a life jacket (87%), and associated with swimming (54%).

One factor contributing to fatal drownings in open water may be the expectation that because an individual is able to swim in a pool, he/she will be safe in open water. However, open water, which includes lakes, oceans, ponds, reservoirs and rivers, has hidden hazards that can increase the risk of drowning. These include sudden drop-offs, dangerous currents, vegetation and rocks, colder temperatures, difficult-to-judge distances, rougher water including waves, limited visibility and more.

These environmental differences from the pool setting make it important for people who want to swim, wade, or just play in open water to find designated areas for swimming. If swimming outside of a designated area or in an area without lifeguards, people should always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved properly fitted life jacket appropriate for their weight and water activity.

Originally published on Water Safety USA.