National Water Safety Week Aids Efforts to Prevent Drownings
By Gina B. Kellogg
This year, National Water Safety Week is June 5 to 10. The event, sponsored by the World Waterpark Association (WWA), is designed to build public awareness of vital water-safety practices. As the organization representing waterparks all over the world, WWA coordinated and developed this special event as a way of supporting the waterpark industry's efforts in placing its highest priority on keeping guests safe.
Statistically, waterparks are the safest place for families to have fun in the water. Compared to other recreational aquatic facilities—both guarded and unguarded, including community pools, beaches, lakes, etc.—waterparks have the lowest risk of danger from drowning. Despite the industry's exemplary level of safety, WWA considers it a priority to educate the public about the potential risks to help lessen all possibilities of drownings under any circumstances. That's because, unfortunately, drownings continue to be the result of people's lack of knowledge regarding safe water practices.
Consider these sobering statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Six people drown in U.S. pools every day. For every person who drowns, four times as many people nearly drown. Who is at greatest risk and under what circumstances?
The CDC offers the following grim facts:
- Young children and teens are at greatest risk. Children under 5 and adolescents between the ages of 15 and 24 have the highest drowning rates.
- Alcohol is often a contributing factor. Alcohol use is involved in a significant number of teen and adult drownings. In fact, alcohol is a major contributing factor in up to 50 percent of drownings among adolescent boys.
- Home can be the most dangerous place. Childhood drownings occur most often in residential swimming pools—often in the child's own backyard.
- If they don't drown, victims still can suffer serious injuries. An estimated 5,000 children ages 14 and under are hospitalized due to near-drownings each year. As many as 20 percent suffer severe, permanent neurological disability.
- Swimming is a greater risk than riding in a car. A swimming pool is 14 times more likely than a motor vehicle to be involved in the death of a child under the age 4.
The sunshine that helps dispel these gloomy facts is that drowning deaths are nearly always preventable. And that's what makes WWA's efforts—and those of its participating members—so inspiring. With more information out there, more people are going to be aware of the steps necessary to stay safe. Thus, WWA takes every opportunity to inform anyone who can help the cause. Part of that effort involves contacting every U.S. state governor and asking them to participate in supporting the event. Last year, WWA convinced 27 governors—representing 68 percent of the U.S. population—about the importance of water-safety awareness and education. Each of the governors issued statewide proclamations supporting National Water Safety Week. This year, WWA is anticipating even greater participation.
Individual members of WWA also showed their support by offering a variety of safety-focused efforts. Most common was the offering of free swimming lessons to area youth. For example, Adventure Island Waterpark in Tampa, Fla., teamed up with a local group, the Hillsborough Water Safety Team, to provide free water-safety classes to the public. The American Red Cross Tampa Bay Chapter taught the water-safety classes with assistance from the Adventure Island lifeguard staff. Classes were open to parents and children ages 4 and older. The classes included tips on recognizing an emergency, assisting a drowning victim and personal swim safety. In addition to the Water Safety Team, other participating groups at the event were Tampa Fire Rescue, Swim for Life, and the Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center.
An especially creative idea came from Mountain Creek Waterpark in Vernon, N.J. In collaboration with several local Girl Scout Councils, the park designed a program that specifically promoted water safety and awareness. More than 700 participants signed up for the events, which combined fun and learning for scouts ranging in age from 7 to 17. Junior Girl Scouts earned a "Water Fun" badge while learning about proper use of personal floatation devices, the buddy system, jobs on water, aquatic ecosystems and water ecology. Senior Girl Scouts from the two councils earned hours toward "Leadership" badges by completing three-and-a-half hours of training and then assisting with the six half-hour lessons.
Another creative idea was the posting of water-safety tips on the Schlitterbahn Waterpark Web site. As an incentive to visit the safety page, the park in New Braunfels, Texas, added a contest to win free tickets. More than 2,400 people visited the page, and 2,200 entered to win tickets.
This year WWA continues its efforts to encourage participation in National Water Safety Week activities. We hope all organizations related to the water-leisure recreation industry will take an active role in educating the public about water safety. As part of that effort, WWA invites readers of Recreation Management magazine to get involved and support National Water Safety Week by sponsoring programs or events in your area that ensure the public becomes more "water aware." For suggestions on how to do so, contact WWA at 913-599-0300.
With everyone doing their part, we can help to greatly reduce the chances of you, your friends or family becoming drowning victims or being injured in the water.
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