Drowning Prevention Plans

a young girl smiling at the camera while leaning against the edge of a pool

The ZAC Foundation believes addressing the nation’s drowning crisis requires a whole community approach informed by, and reflective of, the realities specific to individual communities, including the makeup of the local population and cultural attitudes toward water safety whether they are located on coasts, lakes, and rivers or if they are tourist destinations with visitors of varying swimming ability.

To this end, The ZAC Foundation is working with stakeholders, including swim safety advocates, elected officials, public policy and health experts, school officials, families, and community leaders, in four U.S. communities — Central Texas, St. Louis, MO, Chicago, IL, and Greenwich/Fairfield County, CT – where there is need and deep community engagement. TZF has established Regional Drowning Prevention Task Forces in these communities so they can develop goal-oriented, time-bound community Drowning Prevention Action Plans. While the ultimate goal of this work is to reduce the drowning rate and improve water safety, we hope that these regional activities also lead to the development of a national drowning prevention plan.

The work of these Regional Drowning Prevention Task Forces has included:

  • Working with a local utility company to include drowning prevention and water safety tips in a monthly newsletter;
  • Developing a better data collection tool for Task Force partners to capture fatal and nonfatal drownings;  
  • Posting new, improved signage indicating when lifeguards are not on duty at lakefronts and when riptides are present;
  • Partnering with after school programs to develop water safety curriculum;
  • Working with local first responders about water safety rescue training and updating rescue equipment; and
  • Developing a public education campaign to inform the public on how to report accurately the nature and location of a water emergency.
No Lifeguard on Duty sign
lifeguard training conducted by the American Red Cross

National Drowning Prevention Plan

With drowning as the third leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, the World Health Organization recommends that all countries create a Water Safety Plan that addresses a nation’s drowning problem. While not having the highest drowning rate, the U.S. does have a drowning rate higher than in Australia, the UK, Austria, Barbados, and Jamaica, for example.1 Every day in the U.S., about 10 people die from unintentional drowning. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the U.S.2

According to the WHO, coastal drowning in the United States alone accounts for $273 million each year in direct and indirect costs.3

The ZAC Foundation is deeply involved in the development of the U.S. National Water Safety Action Plan through its membership on the Steering Committee and funding of grants related to the project. The planning process draws from knowledge and experience from key stakeholders across the U.S. to create a comprehensive, evidence-based, realistic, and executable plan, expected to launch next year (2022).

The plan will focus on several areas, including:

  • Data and public health surveillance;
  • Supervision/lifeguards;
  • Life jackets/personal flotation devices;
  • Rescue/CPR training;
  • Barriers, entrapment, electrical safety; and
  • Swimming lessons.

If youd like to learn more, visit the Water Safety USA NWSAP website.

The ZAC Foundation hopes this plan will transform water safety in the United States, as well as help save lives today and for generations to come.


people drown each year

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