2012-09-28 / Top Stories

Swim Strong Aims To Reduce Rockaway Drownings


Participants get ready to swim at Far Rockaway High School last week for the start of a new season of swimming training for the Swim Strong Foundation. Participants get ready to swim at Far Rockaway High School last week for the start of a new season of swimming training for the Swim Strong Foundation. According to information compiled from media reports and released recently by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) Pool Safely campaign, 137 children younger than 15 years drowned in a pool or spa during the traditional summer season of Memorial Day to Labor Day this year. An additional 168 children of that age required emergency response for near-fatal incidents in pools or spas during that period. The media figures for this summer show that 54 of these drownings occurred soon after the children left an adult who was in their immediate vicinity, and 31 children drowned despite the presence of others at the pool.

“Drowning, for the most part, IS preventable. That’s why learning water safety and swimming skills at an early age is so critical. Swim Strong Foundation joins Pool Safely, as a local partner to raise awareness and educate our communities about this life altering issue. Swim Strong’s affordable swim programs for ages 3 through adult give people the skills to be safe and healthy in the water.” said Shawn Slevin, founder of Swim Strong Foundation.

In addition, the media reports from this summer are consistent with CPSC’s annual reports in showing that young children and toddlers are especially vulnerable to drowning — at least 100 of the 137 children who drowned were younger than five. Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death among children one to four years of age.

“Even one life lost to drowning is too much, especially when it can be avoided,” said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, who represents the communities of Rockaway, Broad Channel and Howard Beach. “Non profit programs like Swim Strong prepare our children and community and provide them with the tools they need to not only be great competitive swimmers but also the ability to stay safe in the water.”

“These figures are a strong indication that child drownings are a serious public health problem,” CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said. “We are losing too many children to drowning, tragically cutting short these young lives and leaving families devastated. While summer is ending, our vigilance in ensuring that [for] all children pool safely must not end. With so many indoor community pools, hotel pools and spas, indoor waterparks, as well as outdoor pools that remain open in warm-weather states, we must continue our efforts to remind everyone to pool safely whenever they are near the water.”

Not every child drowning is reported on or tracked by the media. In turn, it takes time for CPSC to compile data of all child drownings from around the country. Each May, CPSC releases reports for drownings and non-fatal submersions for children younger than 15 years of age. CPSC data from 2007 to 2009 shows an annual average of 243 children drowned in pools or spas during the summer months, which is about 63 percent of the average annual drowning figures for these years.

“The Rockaways are first and foremost a beach community, and maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle is a critical part of life here,” said Councilman James Sanders Jr. “Every summer, we endure any number of swimming related acci- dents and deaths. It’s a travesty that hundreds of thousands of people living within walking distance of the beach cannot partake in all that it has to offer because they don’t know how to swim. Swimming and healthy living go hand in hand, and I’m proud to partner with Swim Strong in this terrific endeavor to bring a passion for fitness, health, and swimming to the Rockaways.”

Saunders’ chief of staff, Donovan Richards, said, “Swim Strong is a vital program whose benefits will have ripple effects throughout the Rockaway peninsula, and across time, as future generations become better acquainted with the basics of how to swim, and how to exercise safety and caution in the water. I thank our friends at Swim Strong for continuing this excellent program in Rockaway and look forward to our future collaboration.”

CPSC’s Pool Safely campaign message reinforces the important safety steps: stay close to children in the water, be alert, and watch children in and around the pool at all times.

CPSC’s 2012 submersion report shows on average 390 pool or spa-related drownings occur each year for children younger than 15, based on statistics from 2007-2009. About 5,200 pool or spa-related emergency departmenttreated submersion injuries occur on average each year for children younger than 15.

The Pool Safely campaign provides information on the simple steps that parents, caregivers and pool owners should take to ensure that children and adults stay safe around pools and spas. The full list includes: Stay close, be alert and watch children in and around the pool. Never leave children unattended in a pool or spa; always watch children closely around all bodies of water; teach children basic water safety tips; and keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings. Learn and practice water safety skills.

Every family member should know how to swim. Learn how to perform

CPR on both children and adults. Have appropriate equipment for your pool or spa. This includes pool fencing, a lockable safety cover for spas, proper drain covers to avoid entrapments, and lifesaving equipment such as life rings and a reaching pole.

The Pool Safely campaign was launched in 2010 to raise awareness about pool and spa safety, as mandated by the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. This year, the campaign is increasing its focus on populations most at risk of drowning, including children younger than five years old who represent 75 percent of child drowning fatalities on average, and African American and Hispanic children between the ages of 5 and 14 who drown at higher rates than white children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data from USA Swimming indicates that 70 percent of African American children and 62 percent of Hispanic children cannot swim, making them especially vulnerable to drowning.

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