Drownings can happen in seconds and without as much as a sound. A child struggling to swim can go unnoticed far too easily, and even when multiple adults are present. In fact, up to half of all kids who drown are less than 25 yards away from an adult.
Given the dangers of drowning, parents must be vigilant in monitoring their children in and around water even if the pool, beach or lake has a lifeguard and even if their kids know how to swim. Distractions can be deadly, so don’t read, talk on the phone, text, or catch up with family and friends while supervising your children. And never rely on water toys like noodles,floaties or puddle jumpers to keep children safe. .
It is recommended parents or caregivers enlist adults as designated Water Watchers during a specified period of time, such as 15-20 minutes. The Water Watcher’s sole job is to stay focused on the water. They must pay undivided attention to children in, on and around the water. They cannot — even just for a second — take their eyes off the water and/or engage in any other activities. Additionally, swimmers should also keep their eyes on the Water Watcher. If the Watcher becomes distracted in any way, the swimmer should regain their attention on the water.
“It is vital to assign a dedicated Water Watcher to be in charge when children are in, on or near the water,” says Karen Cohn, co-founder of The ZAC Foundation, a national nonprofit dedicated to improving water safety by funding advocacy, education and effective programming that works to safeguard children and their families. Karen and her husband Brian founded the Foundation after losing their 6-year-old son Zachary Archer Cohn in their backyard swimming pool.
Water Watchers should be at least 16 years old and have the requisite skill, knowledge and ability to recognize and rescue someone in distress and perform CPR.. Additionally, the watcher should have a working phone to dial 911 and a floating and/or reaching object that can be used in a rescue.
Water Watchers are essential because drowning statistics are startling:
- Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death for children ages 1-4 and the second leading cause of death for children under the age of 14
- Each year, about 4,000 people drown in the United States
African-American children drown at a rate three times that of Caucasian children
- For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries
- The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says drowning is a public health crisis
All Water Watchers must pledge to:
- Keep their eyes on the water at all times
- Not consume alcohol while they’re on duty
- Call for help in case of an emergency
- Stay off their phone