By BOB LAMENDOLA
Florida Department of Health in Broward County
Designated drivers protect the community. Designated hitters in baseball protect pitchers. Why not have designated adults to protect kids who are swimming?
Now we do. Child safety groups in South Florida are making a push to enlist adults as designated “Water Watchers” who agree to pay undivided attention to children in or near the water.
Water Watchers are crucial in an area of the country with a high risk of drowning. Broward County, home to 130,000 backyard pools and miles of waterways, lost nine children under age of 4 last year. Black children are more likely than average to be victims of drowning.
“The No. 1 thing you can do to prevent drowning is have a qualified adult watching the children at all times,” says Cassie McGovern, Drowning Prevention Program Manager at the Florida Department of Health in Broward County.
Water Watchers do not need special training but must be able to swim and ideally should be able to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). They receive a badge to wear around their necks – to show everyone who is responsible for watching the kids.
“Too often, many adults are in the area where children are swimming, but no one is really watching them,” McGovern says. “A drowning can occur in as little as two minutes.”
Water Watchers agree to:
Face the children in the water at all times
Never engage in distractions such as texting, talking, drinking, eating, internet browsing or socializing, while watching the children
Never leave the children alone, not even for a brief moment. Leave the area only if relieved by an adult Water Watcher
Continually scan the surface and bottom of the water. Check each face every 10 seconds
Have a throwing device, reaching device, signaling device and a phone at hand
Be positioned to reach every child within 20 seconds
Think ahead, know pool safety rules
Wear swim attire and be ready to launch a rescue
Remember that a personal flotation device does not substitute for adult supervision. In larger groups of children, more than one Water Watcher may be needed. If the group is very large, consider hiring a lifeguard for the event.
More information: 954-467-4700, Ext. 5695 or firstname.lastname@example.org