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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 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.

Education and knowledge is the key for everything and definitely something we should focus on in 2021. 

According to the CDC, an average of 10 fatal drowning incidents happen in the USA every day and is the leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for children 1-4 years, the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for children 1-14 years, and is the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for all ages in the United States.  The WHO has reported that drowning is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths. 

This makes drowning a very serious issue that should be addressed throughout the year in order to avoid and prevent fatal and non-fatal drowning incidents. The beginning of a new year is the best time to plan exactly how we can do this in the form of water safety resolutions.

Here are ten to get you started:

1.- Implement layers of protection at home

The term “layers of protection” is one used to classify the majority of strategies directly affecting aquatic environments. Parents, caregivers, residential pool owners, aquatic facility owners, managers and operators should use “layers of protection” to provide a system of increased security to prevent unauthorized access to bodies of water, especially important for children. This means that multiple strategies or devices are used constantly and simultaneously.

Learn more about how to implement them here.

2.- Practice water safety at home

  • Never leave your child alone in the bathtub—even for a moment. Many bathtub drownings happen (even in a few inches of water) when a parent leaves a small child alone or with another young child. Also, bath seats are just bathing aids. Bath seats can tip over and your child can slip out of them, so they won’t prevent drowning.
  • Empty water from containers, such as large pails and 5-gallon buckets, immediately after use.
  • Keep bathroom doors closed. Install door knob covers or a hook-and-eye latch or other lock that is out of the reach of your small child.
  • Keep toilets closed. Always close the toilet lid, and consider using a toilet lid latch.

Find more ways to be water safe at home in our blog post Home Water Safety Tips.

3.- Teach your children about water safety

Families have always played a vital role in teaching kids how important it is to learn to swim and behave safely in and around the water. If your child isn’t able to take formal swim lessons right now, you can still help them learn to be safer around backyard pools, ponds or other natural bodies of water.

These are some great resources to help you get started.

4.- Actively support the NDPA to promote water safety and drowning prevention all year long.

The mission of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance is to reduce the incidence of drowning and aquatic injuries in the US and abroad. United, we can reach our goal of 0 drownings.

Whether you join or support the alliance in other ways, you can empower your communities to take more action, touch more lives, and make an even greater difference. Check out 5 Ways You Can Support The NDPA for more ideas.

5.- Promote water safety and ways to prevent drowning in your community.

Find information, actions and resources to get your community involved in water safety advocacy efforts whether they be in person or online at the NDPA Resource Center.

6.- Enroll your children in swimming lessons.

Swim skills add a layer of protection to prevent drowning incidents. Formal swimming lessons reduce the risk of drowning among children 1-4 years by 88%. This is the only sport that can actually save lives and can also reduce the risk of drowning among older individuals.

Learn more about Swimming Lessons As A Layer Of Protection To Prevent Drownings.

7.- Learn CPR with rescue breaths. Compression-only CPR does not treat drowning.

Anyone who lives in a home with a pool should learn CPR and rescue breathing. CPR training and certification should be refreshed every one to two years, depending upon the certification agency, or more frequently if there have been recent changes in recommendations.

Along with learning CPR, there are other layers of protection that you should learn which are intended to minimize injury should a child gain access to the water and are meant to be used immediately in the event of such an emergency.

8.- Invest in a life vest for each member of the family.

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. Learn more about it here.

9.- Register for the 2021 National Water Safety Conference

The conference is a great fit for anyone involved in child safety advocacy, injury prevention, safety education, water safety, drowning prevention, first response, public health, public policy, aquatics, and many more areas!

This year the #NWSC2021 will be offered from March 29 to April 1, 2021 in a virtual format. It will include a range of different activities including hosted virtual networking sessions, live general sessions and keynote addresses, interactive sessions, pre-recorded breakout educational sessions, and so much more. The best part of a virtual conference – no travel, hotel, and expenditure costs. Get ALL the education from the comfort of home!

Register now!

10.- Join the NDPA Water Safety Warriors Group!

The NDPA has the goal of bringing everyone who has a vested interest in drowning prevention and water safety together. This way, we can provide education and resources to prevent drowning and aquatic injury by making water safer to enjoy.

By providing this space to connect to each other, access to the most current information, and share resources to help  be more effective in our efforts, we are sure can reach our goal to end accidental drownings!

Just click to join!

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!”

Blog Cover- 2021 Conference Updates

As you know, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NDPA transitioned the 2020 National Water Safety Conference to an online delivery format. We felt a duty to provide high quality education, networking, and training no matter the circumstances. In less than 3-weeks our conference team raised up to meet this unforeseen challenge and successfully delivered the first virtual conference in our industry. Our speakers, exhibitors, and attendees proved that water safety was so important even during an unprecedented situation. The 2020 National Water Safety Conference increased attendance by 30% over the previous year’s conference and also provided attendees with over 60 high quality sessions that remained available for 5 months post conference.

2021 National Water Safety Conference
March 29 – April 1, 2021

Given the unpredictable and extended nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NDPA has made the decision to transition the 2021 National Water Safety Conference to an online delivery format, similar to the 2020 conference. We believe it is the best decision for our attendees, speakers, sponsors, and our organization. By making this decision now, we will allow our conference team over 5 months to plan and organize a conference that will no-doubt be even better than last year’s event. You can be assured that our conference team will deliver a virtual conference experience second to none. Here are some highlights you can expect at the 2021 National Water Safety Conference Online:

  • 60+ educational sessions, trainings, and workshops.
  • A full day of the conference focused on the U.S. National Water Safety Action Plan
  • Multiple live keynotes, general session speakers, and panel discussions; including a panel discussion with government officials, politicians, and policy makers on drowning prevention legislation and advocacy.
  • Numerous interactive networking events to expand your professional network in water safety.
  • A redesigned interactive exhibit hall that allows even more meaningful interactions and connections with our sponsors and exhibitors.
  • 5 months of post conference access to sessions. No more missed sessions and no more trying to soak up all the education at once.

Registration information will be available soon on www.WaterSafetyConference.com.

2021 Drowning Prevention Symposium (NEW)
San Diego, CA

September 13-14, 2021

We are extremely proud and excited to announce the first Drowning Prevention Symposium presented by NDPA. This new two-day autumn event is designed to bring together advocates, professionals, and leaders directly after the summer season. This smaller and seasonal event will focus on education, advocacy work, and sharing among the participants to better align drowning prevention efforts around the country. The first event will be held in-person in September of 2021 at the San Diego Mission Bay Resort. Mark the dates on your calendar and keep an eye out for more information in the near future. We can’t wait to be back in-person with you!

Thank you for your on-going support of water safety, the NDPA, and our conferences/events. We look forward to bringing you the best conferences and events yet in 2021.

Stay safe & stay well!

NDPA Conference Team

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. 

                                                                              ###

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

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.

An Appropriate Water Watcher

  • Is at least 16 years of age (adults preferred).
  • Has the skills, knowledge, and ability to recognize and rescue someone in distress or can immediately alert someone nearby who has that capability.
  • Knows CPR or can immediately alert someone nearby with that skill.
  • Has a working phone to be able to dial 9-1-1.
  • Has a floating and/or reaching object that can be used in a rescue.
  • Is alert and not under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Here’s Why

More Information

  • 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. Layers of protection include ensuring that:

             > everyone learns to swim;
             > unintended access to pools or other bodies of water is prevented by fencing or other barriers;
             > U.S. Coast Guard approved lifejackets are used to aid inexperienced swimmers;
             > all swimmers are closely, attentively, continuously, and redundantly supervised by water watchers and/or lifeguards;
             > persons with the knowledge, skills and ability to safely effect a water rescue and initiate CPR are on site; and,
             > emergency services can be alerted if needed (access to 911).
Resources

Media Advisory on Proper Terminology

Drowning is not always a fatal event. Some people die as a result of drowning, while others survive with serious, life-long injuries, or none at all. Thus, the term “drowning” should not be used to imply death. According to the World Health Organization: “Drowning is the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in liquid. Drowning outcomes are classified as death, morbidity and no morbidity. Agreed terminology is essential to describe the problem and to allow effective comparisons of drowning trends. Thus, this definition of drowning adopted by the 2002 World Congress on Drowning should be widely used.” 

About the Authors of this Document: Water Safety USA is a consortium of leading national governmental and nongovernmental organizations with a strong record of providing drowning prevention and water safety programs. Our mission is to empower people with resources, information, and tools to safely enjoy and benefit from our nation’s aquatic environments. Our membership is as follows:

American Academy of Pediatrics
American Red Cross
Boy Scouts of America
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Drowning Prevention Alliance
National Park Service
National Safe Boating Council
Pool and Hot Tub Alliance
Safe Kids Worldwide
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
U.S. Coast Guard
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
United States Lifesaving Association
USA Swimming Foundation
YMCA of the USA

Drowning is a leading cause of death for young children. Be aware of the potential risks and prevent unsupervised access to water. This includes in-ground and above ground pools and spas, portable pools, bath tubs, buckets and other bodies of water, such as rivers, lakes, ponds and canals.

THE RISK

  • Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for children 1 to 14 years of age and kills more children ages 1 to 4 than anything else except for birth defects. On average, three children die each day from drowning.
  • ​Drowning risks vary by age
    o Children younger than 1 year old are more likely to drown at home. 
    o Children between 1 and 4 years of age are more likely to drown in a home swimming pool or spa. 
    o Those 5 to 17 years old are more likely to drown in natural water, such as a pond or lake. 
  • Lack of barriers to prevent unsupervised water access is a main factor in many drowning incidents.
  • Pool and spa drownings occur in public and private settings, in backyard in-ground and above-ground pools, kids’ pools, apartment complexes and hotels. 
  • The US Consumer Product Safety Commission says that nearly 70% of young children who drowned in swimming pools were not expected to be in or at the pool.  
  • After pools, bathtubs are the second leading location where young children drown. However, buckets, bath seats, wells, cisterns, septic tanks, decorative ponds, and toilets, are also potential drowning sources for infants and toddlers.

WHAT TO DO:

  • Check for water hazards in your setting, such as an unfenced pool, liquid-filled buckets or an ornamental pond, then take appropriate precautions to prevent unsupervised access. 
  • ​Childproof your home against water hazards from bathtubs, bath seats, toilets and buckets:
    o Place locks on toilet seat covers in case a young child wanders into the bathroom. 
    o Empty unattended buckets containing even a small amount of liquid immediately after use, including buckets outside that can collect rainwater. Toddlers are top heavy and can easily fall headfirst into buckets and drown. After using a bucket, always empty and store it inside or where young children cannot reach it. 
    o Drain all water from portable and inflatable kiddie pools, and flip them over so they cannot collect rainwater.  
  • If you have a pool, spa or ornamental pond at home:
    o Install a fence that is at least 4-feet high, and completely separates the water from the house and yard. Use self-closing and self-latching gates that open outward, with latches that are out of reach of children. See CPSC Safety Barrier Guidelines for Residential Pools for details.
    o In addition to a fence, install additional layers of protection, such as automatic door locks and alarms to prevent access and to alert you if someone exits the home and enters the pool area.
    o Install and use a door or pool alarm, and/or a pool or spa cover if the house serves as part of a pool or spa fence.
    o Make sure that pool or spa covers can support the weight of a child and not allow access to the water.
    o Remove floats, balls and other toys from the pool and surrounding area immediately after use so children are not tempted to enter the pool area unsupervised.
    o For above-ground pools, the pool structure itself is a barrier, however be sure to prevent young children from climbing up into the pool by securing, locking or removing steps and ladders. 
    o Be aware of pet doors that lead directly to a pool or other backyard body of water. A fence between the house and the pool is a must if there is a cat or dog door.
  • If you have natural water on your property or near your home, such as a pond, river, lake, stream or canal, or if you have a neighbor with an unfenced pool or spa: 
    o Install fencing between the house and the water that prevents children from accessing the water without adult supervision.
    o Check your local building codes for requirements for residential fencing and housing complexes.
  • If you are away from home near bodies of water, such as a river, lake, pond, canal, or ocean shore: 
    o Set expectations and rules for children regarding going in or near the water, and strictly enforce them.
    o Closely and continuously monitor anyone who is unable to recognize the danger that water may pose—especially young children. Children can disappear quickly and are attracted to water. Don’t assume that a fence, sign, or verbal warning will keep children away from the water.
    o Swim only in designated swimming areas supervised by lifeguards or other undistracted water watchers who are capable of performing a water rescue.
    o Make sure that those with sufficient skill and maturity to participate in approved activities, such as swimming, boating, or fishing, are doing so in a safe area with appropriate supervision, such as lifeguards, and appropriate equipment, such as life jackets.  
    o When in, on, or near the water, insist that children and weak or non-swimmers wear properly-fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets that are appropriate for their weight and water activity.
  • Know how to provide proper supervision for children under your care in or near the water:
    o Become water competent and learn to swim.
    o Understand how risks vary with conditions, such as water depth, water clarity and currents, and adjust supervision and activities accordingly. For example, by choosing a safe swimming area or having participants wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket. 
    o Learn CPR and basic rescue skills.
    o Always designate a water watcher when in or near water. 
       – Practice touch supervision while bathing the very young.
       – In a pool, keep young children within arm’s reach.
       – Avoid distractions, such as phone calls or texts.
       – Don’t leave a young child unattended, or under the care of another child, even for a moment.  
Picture

Media Advisory on Proper Terminology Drowning is not always a fatal event. Some people die as a result of drowning, while others survive with serious, life-long injuries, or none at all. Thus, the term “drowning” should not be used to imply death. According to the World Health Organization: “Drowning is the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in liquid. Drowning outcomes are classified as death, morbidity and no morbidity. Agreed terminology is essential to describe the problem and to allow effective comparisons of drowning trends. Thus, this definition of drowning adopted by the 2002 World Congress on Drowning should be widely used.” 

About the Authors of this Document: Water Safety USA is a consortium of leading national governmental and nongovernmental organizations with a strong record of providing drowning prevention and water safety programs. Our mission is to empower people with resources, information, and tools to safely enjoy and benefit from our nation’s aquatic environments. Our membership is as follows:

American Academy of Pediatrics
American Red Cross
Boy Scouts of America
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Drowning Prevention Alliance
National Park Service
National Safe Boating Council
Pool and Hot Tub Alliance
Safe Kids Worldwide
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
U.S. Coast Guard
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
United States Lifesaving Association
USA Swimming Foundation
YMCA of the USA

WHAT: Water competency means being able to anticipate, avoid, and survive common drowning situations, as well as being able to recognize and provide assistance to those in need. It includes water safety awareness, basic swimming skills, and helping others.

WHYDrowning is a major cause of accidental death. Drowning is a surprisingly fast, often silent injury. A weak or non-swimmer who stumbles and loses footing when unable to touch the bottom, can quickly start to drown. The person who is in trouble cannot move a few feet to safety and is unable to call for help. They may sink out of sight within seconds. Rescue needs to happen quickly so that the person can breathe and survive without brain damage. Fortunately, drowning situations can be avoided with good planning and being prepared.

Good swimmers are generally at less risk of serious mishaps in the water than poor swimmers, but even a good swimmer can drown. Preventing surprise and panic requires learning what to do before getting into the water.  Many drownings involve people who did not plan to enter the water.   Even when they plan to enter the water, many people underestimate the risks and overestimate their ability, or that of their children in water. Those completing entry-level swim lessons, particularly young children, may still not have the basic skills and knowledge for water competency. They still need close and direct supervision. Even those with good swimming skills may not be safe due to other factors, such as unfamiliar waters, water hazards, medical emergencies, alcohol or drug use, or other unsafe conditions.

WATER SMARTS: There is more to drowning prevention than swimming skills. Water safety is knowing about the water and the hazards in it and about having respect for the water. A person can learn to recognize and avoid some common water hazards like rip currents at beaches that carry a swimmer away from shore and underwater dangers like logs or sea life that sting, bite, snag, or trap swimmers.  Water safety is also practicing safe behaviors and stopping unsafe behaviors, like horseplay or diving headfirst into shallow water that can lead to spinal injuries, or consuming alcohol or drugs that can affect judgement, swimming ability, and physical reaction. Water safety includes understanding the layers of protection needed to keep ourselves and our loved ones safer when in, on, and around water. For example, wearing a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket appropriate for their weight and water activity, and putting one on a weak or non-swimmer swimmer, adds a layer of protection. Water competency includes having sufficient knowledge to be responsible for one’s own safety as well as the safety of everyone you are supervising. Parents and caregivers should gain basic water safety knowledge and then set rules, coach their children, and closely supervise those not old enough to recognize and avoid hazards, dangerous situations, and risky behaviors. ​

SWIMMING SKILLS: Essential swimming skills include being able to enter the water and resurface, controlling breathing, floating, turning, and moving to safety in the water and exiting. However, the water environment, the activity, and even what the person is wearing can alter their ability to perform these skills.  Basic swimming skills may be adequate to swim a short time and distance in the deep end of a swimming pool, but greater skill and comfort in the water are needed when swimming in a lake, river, or ocean; in cold or rough water; and in waves or current.  The table below provides swimmers and parents with some reasonable guidelines to assess basic water competency and skills to look for when evaluating a swim lesson and water safety program. These swim skills should be seen as a foundation for gaining more experience and comfort in the water.

​The American Red Cross recommendations for water competency provide a starting point for assessing minimum swim skills for common pool environments. Those are included in the middle column of the table below, including the minimum proficiency to control breathing, float or tread water, turn in the water, and swim 25 yards using any type of stroke. Anyone lacking such basic skill levels should be closely supervised, stay in shallow water, or wear a life jacket, and seek instruction. A person just able to meet the American Red Cross criteria for water competency is still a novice, not a good swimmer and may not yet be ready for instruction or participation in various activities in different water environments beyond pools such as snorkeling, wakeboarding, surfing, or assisting with in-water rescues. Advanced skills are generally best acquired through specialized courses and may not be included in generic learn-to-swim progressions. 

HELPING OTHERS: Everyone should always swim with general supervision such as lifeguards and water watchers.  Children without basic swimming skills should be directly supervised by a water watcher who is within arm’s reach. Knowledgeable, attentive, supervision of all swimmers is important for drowning prevention and response, particularly for toddlers, children, and teens, even when lifeguards are on duty.  Supervision may be provided by designated water watchers such as parents and youth leaders who are alert, not distracted (reading, using a smart device or phone), not using alcohol or drugs, and focused on those near or in the water.

​Ideally, water watchers themselves should be fully water competent, knowing safe, simple rescue techniques.
Safe, simple rescue techniques include reaching and throwing a flotation aid from the water’s edge without entering the water. However, more skills may be needed to aid someone in trouble in the water. A toddler, or anyone else, on the bottom of a backyard pool needs immediate help from someone trained to safely enter the water, submerge to the victim, remove the victim from the water, and perform CPR. A victim struggling after stepping off a hidden ledge in a lake may be beyond reaching or easy throwing distance from shore. A competent swimmer with appropriate training should be able to safely wade or swim close enough to the victim to push a flotation aid for them to grab. Rescue and first aid skills are especially important for parents whose children swim in backyard pools or recreate in other aquatic settings where lifeguards are not present. 

Water Competency Components

WATER SMARTS

  • Know your limitations: respect the water and avoid unsafe behaviors
  • Never swim alone, swim with lifeguards and/or water watchers present
  • Swim only in a safe area, free from underwater hazards, including drop-offs, with safe entry and exit points
  • Do not dive into shallow or unclear water; enter feet first.
  • Wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket while boating, regardless of swimming skill
  • Understand how physical fitness, medical conditions, and cold water change risk factors
  • Do not swim while using alcohol or drugs
  • Understand the dangers of hyperventilation and hypoxic blackout7
  • Understand how currents affect swimming in a river
  • Know how to recognize, avoid, and handle ocean rip currents
  • Know how to call for help

SWIMMING SKILLS

  • Step or jump into water over the head and return to the surface
  • Turn around and orient to safety as well as turn over
  • Float or tread water
  • Combine breath control with all swim skills, including forward movement in the water
    • Basic skill: swim to safety for at least 25 yards*
    • Advanced skill: Swim at least 100 yards using relaxed, restful strokes *
  • Exit the water
  • Perform all the skills above while clothed

*Note: Longer distances and length of times are necessary for competency in different water environments

HELPING OTHERS

  • Always provide close and constant attention to anyone (children, teens, & adults) you are supervising in or near the water.
  • Know how to recognize a drowning person
  • Learn SAFE ways to assist others who are in trouble
  • Learn CPR (both chest compressions and rescue breaths) and first aid

Media Advisory on Proper Terminology

Drowning is not always a fatal event. Some people die as a result of drowning, while others survive with serious, life-long injuries, or none at all. Thus, the term “drowning” should not be used to imply death. According to the World Health Organization: “Drowning is the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in liquid. Drowning outcomes are classified as death, morbidity and no morbidity. Agreed terminology is essential to describe the problem and to allow effective comparisons of drowning trends. Thus, this definition of drowning adopted by the 2002 World Congress on Drowning should be widely used.” 

About the Authors of this Document: Water Safety USA is a consortium of leading national governmental and nongovernmental organizations with a strong record of providing drowning prevention and water safety programs. Our mission is to empower people with resources, information, and tools to safely enjoy and benefit from our nation’s aquatic environments. Our membership is as follows:

American Academy of Pediatrics
American Red Cross
Boy Scouts of America
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Drowning Prevention Alliance
National Park Service
National Safe Boating Council
Pool and Hot Tub Alliance
Safe Kids Worldwide
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
U.S. Coast Guard
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
United States Lifesaving Association
USA Swimming Foundation
YMCA of the USA