"In the last twenty years, we've had a steady but significant decline in the number of drowning deaths in King County," said Sims. "These are great accomplishments for our community and proof that water safety and drowning prevention pay off."
Last year was the first time in memory that no child drowned while swimming in King County and that no one of any age drowned while rafting, swimming or boating recreationally in local rivers and streams.
"We have been able to decrease the number of drownings due to factors like effective public education and new water safety laws," said Dr. Alonzo Plough, Director of Public Health — Seattle & King County. "In our state, however, drowning is still a leading cause of unintentional injury death among children."
"Drownings are preventable, and without a doubt, water safety saves lives," added Plough.
April Pool's Day: Saturday, April 21
On April Pool's Day, over 50 pools around King County and the state will be holding activities that promote water safety and drowning prevention.
"King County has an incredible network of pools throughout the county. We welcome children and adults to come visit a pool and learn about water safety," said Craig Larsen, Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation.
At local pools on April Pool's Day, children and adults can:
- enjoy a free swim
- try on lifejackets and get lifejackets inspected
- participate in various water safety activities (like boating safety and CPR/first aid training)
Water safety guidelines
"Most child submersions that lead to drownings or near drowning occur when adults have a lapse in supervision," said Tony Gomez, a Manager of Public Health's Violence and Injury Prevention Program.
"We can prevent submersions by following the law; all children on boats must wear lifejackets, and pools must be properly fenced," added Gomez.
Public Health recommends that people follow water safety guidelines:
- By law, children under 12 must always wear a lifejacket on boats.
- Wear a lifejacket when swimming in open water. Wear a lifejacket while in small boats, rafting, inner tubing, water skiing or on a personal watercraft.
- Make sure that children are supervised when swimming. Lack of supervision is the most common cause of drowning. Fence pools on all sides in order to keep kids safe.
- Learn how to swim, and teach children to swim with a buddy and in lifeguarded areas.
- Drowning statistics show that "midnight swims" and swimming in unsupervised areas are especially dangerous for young people ages 12 to 24. Alcohol and water do not mix. People this age should wear a lifejacket if a lifeguard is not around.
- Learn what to do in an emergency (for example, take a CPR class).
Honoring a career in prevention
Today, Sims honored Gary Fraser of the Washington State Department of Health for his lifetime commitment to water safety. In his 25-year career, Fraser has trained approximately 10,000 people statewide on recreational water safety in pools, spas, water parks, and beaches.
"Nobody represents our progress in water safety better than Gary Fraser," said Sims.
Founded in 1991, the Seattle-King County Drowning Prevention Coalition consists of over 25 government agencies, businesses, hospitals, and non-profit organizations. Its goal is to prevent drowning deaths and near-drowning trauma.
Providing effective and innovative health and disease prevention services for over 1.8 million residents and visitors of King County, Public Health - Seattle & King County works for safer and healthier communities for everyone, every day.