It’s Time To Take Water Safety Seriously: Introducing the Water Watcher.
Living in Florida, we’re never too far from the water, whether it’s the ocean or a home or community pool, there is always a place nearby to go for a swim. It’s part of our state’s culture, really, and one that we’re proud of. Lying back in the sunshine, lounging by the pool, and watching our kids play in the backyard pool.
Unfortunately, statistics reveal that drowning and water related incidents are the leading cause of death in Florida for children under 5 years old. In fact, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties have the highest drowning rates of children in this age group for the entire state of Florida with an average of 7 deaths each year.
Many water related deaths occur within just a few minutes of when a parent or supervisor last saw the child. A reminder that children should always be closely supervised near any source of water, no matter how small – a child can drown in as little as three inches of water.
As frightening as these statistics are, there are things that all families can do to be safer around the water.The Stop Drowning Now Water Safety Foundation has an important message around the concept of the SAFER 3. The SAFER 3 initiative is a great place to start your journey of becoming safer in the water. Its initiatives include recognizing water related risks, creating a strategy to reduce and manage risks, and responsibly sticking to your plan. Joining the ranks of the designated driver and safety supervisor, we welcome the water watcher.
Water watchers are designated adult supervisors whose sole responsibility is to keep an eye on children in a pool or other body of water while being prepared to react in the case of an emergency. They don’t need to have any formal qualifications, but they should know how to swim and they should also be able to help someone who is in trouble in the water without putting themselves in danger.
What steps can we take to help prevent water related deaths among our youngest dependents?
Always supervise children whenever in, on or around the water.
This is the key role of the water watcher; someone who is near the water with children playing, ready to take action without any hesitation. Water watchers must be able to see all children above and under the water at all times and should be able to reach any point of the water in 20 seconds or less.
You can get designated “water watcher” badges to wear; if you’re at a pool party with family and friends, you can even take turns wearing the badge so that every adult gets a chance to enjoy the party, confident that the children will be supervised.
Take swimming lessons
According to studies by the National Institute of Health, a child who knows how to swim is 88% less likely to drown than one who doesn’t. Here at Ocaquatics, the first thing we teach is how to safely reach the side of the pool after jumping or falling in.
Adults should also know how to swim so that they can provide essential safety supervision and be able to easily reach a child who’s in danger. Adults who know how to swim are more likely to ensure their children can, as well.
Understand when and how to use flotation devices
Arm floaties and body boards are not a substitute for adult supervision! While they are fun to use, accidents can still happen. If you have a child who can’t swim at all, a US Coast Guard approved Personal Floatation Device can be used when they’re near water.
An essential requirement for all water watchers is to have a throwing device, reaching device, and phone at hand. This means you’ll be able to throw a safety line or reach a pole out to a child to see if you can reach out to them before jumping in to save them. Another essential is your cell phone - make sure it’s charged and ready to call emergency services if the unthinkable does happen.
Take extra precautions around a home pool
If you have a backyard pool, there are are several extra precautions you can take to create a safer environment and reduce the risk of an accident.
Invest in a pool fence, locked gate, and alarm. A pool fence isn’t the fence that goes around your backyard, it encircles your home swimming pool, so that children already playing in the garden aren’t at risk of unintentionally falling in. A locked gate is an added security measure as exploring bodies won’t be able to open it without a key or code. Finally, setting an alarm to trigger when the gate does open is the perfect indicator for those worst-case scenario moments when all other barriers are breached.
At Ocaquatics, our mission is is to teach families to love swimming and to become safer, more comfortable and more responsible around the water. If you’re interested in swimming lessons for your family, ask us about our free swimming evaluations!