To promote safe swimming and drowning awareness, the month of May has been designated National Drowning Prevention Awareness Month by the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA), one of our water safety partners. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), drowning accidents are a major public health problem worldwide – coming in as the third leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide as of 2021. Education and knowledge are key to reducing these tragic numbers, and increasing safety for both children and adults.
Lifejackets for Non-Swimmers are Essential
There are many factors that contribute to greater risk around water, including age (globally, the highest drowning rates are among children age 1 to 4 years old), gender (males have twice the overall mortality rate than females), and medical conditions (such as epilepsy).
Generally speaking, non-swimmers are the most at risk for drowning, being defined as those that cannot travel in the water unless they receive support, whereas swimmers must be able to swim a length on their front without a swim aid. For non-swimmers, one of the most effective methods according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to prevent drownings is the use of Coast Guard-approved lifejackets. These devices enable both children and adults with classified disabilities, as well as create independence while building confidence for new swimmers, and maximize instruction time. Swimming facilities (resorts, aquatic facilities, summer camps, hotels, and Airbnbs) should facilitate the safe use of these lifejackets by providing them as loaners, checking them daily for wear and tear, and sanitize after each use. They can also promote awareness of their policies to patrons through ‘Non-Swimmers Wear Life Jackets’ signage – and other pool safety signs.
Proactive Safety for Swimming
To prevent drowning, there are many proactive steps that can be taken including installing fences and barriers and controlling access to water. According to the WHO, measures to better protect children, including education at an early age is also critical. “Community-based, supervised child care for pre-school children can reduce drowning risk and has other proven health benefits. Teaching school-age children basic swimming, water safety and safe rescue skills is another approach.”
Linda Bolger, the founder of the FAST (Flotation Aided Swim Training) Swim Program, promotes a safety approach for swimming facilities that takes a proactive stance instead of a reactive one, much like what we promote here at Clarion Safety through preventative warnings, instructions, and safety signs. Reactive policies are a reflection of when regulations are only put in place after a tragic incident happens. Proactive safety is a way for a facility to employ all the tactics possible to minimize the likelihood of an incident taking place and performing an assessment of all possible risks. The FAST Swim Program, “is the newest program available in the United States to teach non-swimmers of all ages how to be comfortable and confident in the water by using United States Coast Guard-approved Type III life jackets.”
Another example of proactive safety measures, this time in recent legislation, is the Every Child A Swimmer Law going into effect in Florida through 2022-2023. It’s aimed at requiring Florida public schools to survey parents if their child has taken swimming lessons; if they have not, schools are then required to provide swim and education materials. The law also requires the parents of every child enrolled in school in Florida to be given either electronic or paper access educating them on the importance of teaching their children how to swim and where to find local swimming lessons.
CDC and AAP Water Safety Guidelines
To reduce drowning in swimming environments, the CDC and AAP water safety proactive guidelines both recommend:
- Using USCG approved life jackets that properly fit for flotation assistance for non-swimmers or be within an arm’s length of an adult when in the water.
- Make sure children are wearing life jackets around natural bodies of water.
- Never leave children alone in or around any body of water.
- Do not allow under water breath holding for long amounts of time, forced submersion or prolonged repetitive breath holding is not recommended.
- Posted signage and accessible locations for pool rules, pool hours, first aid kits, emergency action plans, AEDs, and loaner lifejackets.
- Make sure a four sided fence is in place around swimming pool areas to prevent children from falling in.
The CDC advises that those who manage and operate public swimming facilities should consult with their local officials to determine how to implement these precautions in the best way possible.
Drowning Stats At a Glance and Resources to Help
Unintentional swim-related fatalities continue to be a leading cause of death across the country. As per the NDPA, between 3,500 and 4,000 lives are lost each year due to drowning. For children ages 1 to 4, drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths, and drowning is listed as one of the top five causes of unintentional injury-related deaths from birth to age 54. A lack of barriers around water causes the majority of drowning deaths overall and – to strengthen the case for water safety advocacy – it can take just 20 seconds for someone to drown.
What can you do to encourage water safety and prevent accidental drowning deaths? The NDPA has several resources available to help. Visit the NDPA website to educate yourself on water safety facts, or to find out how to get involved in the National Drowning Prevention Month campaign. For pool and spa owners interested in taking steps to create a safer pool environment for guests, learn how you can better protect people and reduce risk through pool safety signs that work together as a system to get noticed and deliver impact.
Safety: Here to Support Your Water Safety Visuals Program
Clarion Safety is proud to support the month of May as National Drowning Prevention Month and its goal to promote water safety. Whether you’re a swim facility readying to reopen or need to get your swim safety signage up to date with today’s best practices, Clarion Safety has the pool safety signs to keep swimmers safe and fulfill your legal “duty to warn.” Our signs are a truly new approach to reducing risk. They use state-of-the-art graphical symbols, color, language, and special formatting to communicate core safety messages. And, they have proven results; it’s the only sign system on the market today that’s been tested by viewers (with comprehension testing administered by the NDPA) and proven to be quickly recognized and easily understood. Get in touch with our team to discuss how we can help increase safety at your pool, beach, or waterpark.