Make Water Safety a Top Priority

Childhood drowning is on the rise, and since kids are at more risk of drowning during the summer as they enjoy time in and around pools, lakes and oceans, the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA), has kicked off its Water Safety Champion campaign. The campaign aims to educate parents, caregivers and communities about the importance of applying the five layers of protection, which include multiple, evidence-based strategies for preventing drowning tragedies.

“There are so many misperceptions about drowning, particularly as it relates to children,” said Adam Katchmarchi, Ph.D., executive director, NDPA. “Perhaps the most important to dispel is the myth that one strategy for prevention is enough. This summer, we want to change that by putting information and resources on the need for five layers of protection directly into the hands of parents and communities.”

NDPA, whose mission is to prevent the tragedy of drowning through education, awareness and advocacy, is officially launching the effort for Water Safety Month (May) and the summer season.

According to Katchmarchi, “Among parents who have lost a child to drowning, the most common response I hear is ‘we didn’t know’—didn’t know how prevalent it is, didn’t know how easily it can happen, and didn’t know that one strategy for prevention just isn’t enough.”

Dr. Julie Gilchrist, a pediatrician and researcher who also serves as chief medical advisor to the NDPA, said, “In case after case, we hear stories from families who were diligent in supervising their child while in the pool but didn’t know the many ways drowning can happen—for example, during non-swim times. This is just one example of why no single means of protection is sufficient and why we advocate for the Five Layers of Protection.”

Developed with input from pediatricians, epidemiologists and aquatics education professionals, NDPA and its partners advocate that parents and caregivers practice the Five Layers of Protection whenever a child is near open water to prevent a drowning incident. The Five Layers of Protection include:

  1. Barriers and Alarms: to help children and unauthorized adults from accessing water unsupervised.
  2. Supervision: close, constant and capable adult supervision by a designated water watcher or lifeguard anytime children are in or around water.
  3. Water Competency: equipping every child with basic water safety skills to reduce the risk of drowning and aquatic-related injuries.
  4. Life Jackets (tested and approved by the U.S. Coast Guard): to provide protection when you are not expecting to be in the water.
  5. Emergency Response Preparedness: including CPR training, basic water rescue skills, and having a phone available and ready to call 911.

“I hear ‘I didn’t know’ from families of fatal and non-fatal drowning victims all the time,” Katchmarchi said. “This is the phrase that haunts me and every person in the water safety space. The good news is that drowning IS preventable, which is why the goal of the #WaterSafetyChampion campaign is focused on the Five Layers of Protection and what parents need to know to achieve maximum awareness of the tools and best practices available so they are spared the tragedy of the loss of a child due to drowning.”

Get involved by educating parents and caregivers who attend your aquatic facility, and download NDPA’s Water Safety Season Toolkit here: