The first stage was to develop a framework for a 10-year, evidence-based drowning prevention strategy for model water safety programs that are scalable from the community to national levels.
While there is no “one size fits all” approach to water safety, there are common themes. These serve as the basis for Stage 2 – establishing six working groups to identify best practices; data and gaps at national, state, county, and community levels to guide goals; objectives; and actions for recommended models at all levels:
1. Data/Surveillance will focus on what is needed to develop comprehensive drowning data surveillance to inform the prevention of fatal and nonfatal drownings. This will allow communities and key groups, including lifeguards, to better identify risk groups and develop and monitor data driven prevention interventions.
2. Water Safety/Swimming Lessons/Water Competency will identify needed priorities among the components of water competency including development of standards, policies/legislation and implementation models for all ages. Water competency includes swimming competencies, water smart behaviors and attitudes, hazard recognition, and self-assessment.
3. Supervision/Lifeguards will focus on how to improve protection and supervision of those near and in all types of open waters, pools, and around the home by parents, group leaders and lifeguards. This includes the development of minimum standards, developing recommendations on how to increase the public’s use of lifeguarded facilities, a review of emerging drowning prevention technology and workforce planning. Minimum standards will include supervision, lifeguard training, recertification, and more. Given the wide range of water hazards, sub-working groups may be established to address the complexities of this issue.
4. Rescue/CPR will identify what is needed to promote and improve Rescue and Resuscitation of the drowning victim by laypersons, lifeguards and Emergency Medical Services (EMS). I am fortunate to serve as a co-chair of this working group.
5. Pool Fencing & Other Barriers will identify ways to increase the use of fencing, barriers, alarms, and emerging technologies that reduce unsupervised access to water. This includes a comprehensive review of standards, codes, regulations, and legislation.
6. Lifejackets/PFD will focus on how to increase the use of Coast Guard approved life jackets by boaters, as well as by those recreating in or near the water.
Stage 3 is expected in Spring of 2022 and will convene a high-level panel of experts to discuss and fine tune the recommendations, with a careful eye on inclusivity and diversity.
I strongly believe that drowning is preventable, but solutions require multi-sectorial engagement across diverse populations. The ultimate goal is to create a long lasting, living plan that comprises evidence-based best practices that can be adopted and scaled from an individual community to a state or nation. The working groups have formed, but we are still looking for key informants, reviewers, and stakeholders who we may have overlooked.