KING COUNTY, WASHINGTON - Today, King County Executive Ron Sims and representatives from Public Health — Seattle & King County, Seattle Parks and Recreation, the American Red Cross and the King County Drowning Prevention Coalition kicked off the 2003 swimming, fishing and boating season by urging people to learn about water safety and drowning prevention during April Pools Day, Saturday, April 12. Also, two groups were recognized for saving people's lives last year.
"As a former lifeguard, I can't emphasize enough the importance of learning to swim, improving your swimming ability and wearing a life jacket in bodies of water such as rivers, lakes and oceans. I encourage King County residents to enjoy our local pools and beaches in a safe way," said King County Executive Ron Sims.
"Drowning is one of the leading causes of unintentional injury among some youth in our state, and even one drowning death is too much," said Dr. Alonzo Plough, Director of Public Health — Seattle & King County. "Drowning deaths are predictable and preventable."
Pools around Seattle and King County will host April Pools Day events to promote water safety and drowning prevention. Activities geared toward the whole family will include a free swim hour, life jacket demonstrations, and water safety and rescue lessons.
"Water safety is a major focus for Parks and Recreation in Seattle, and right now we have a great program provided by Seattle voters when they approved the Pro Parks Levy in 2000. This program, the 'Learn to Swim Program', is available at no cost to every third and fourth grader in Seattle public schools," said Kenneth Bounds, Superintendent of Seattle Park & Recreation. "I hope every parent will take advantage of it. The ability to swim stays with you forever."
"The American Red Cross has always worked within local communities to provide and support aquatics programs," says Jim Hamilton, CEO of the American Red Cross serving King and Kitsap Counties. "We believe that water safety is paramount within our service area of King and Kitsap Counties, communities surrounded by water."
Preventable drowning increased in King County from 17 cases in 2001 to 22 cases in 2002. Unfortunately, statewide Child Death Review data analysis found that children of Asian or Pacific Islander ethnicity are disproportionately affected by drownings in Washington State. "We must address disparities in the number of drownings among the Asian and Pacific Islander populations," said Tony Gomez of Public Health — Seattle & King County.
The following water safety heroes were honored today:
- King County Sheriff Deputies Chris Bedker, Wendy Billingsley, Troy Connor, Seth Grant, and Phil Sterling, who rescued a young girl who became trapped underwater in the Cedar River.
- Shoreline Fire Chief Jim Batdorf along with Seattle Policer Officer Andy Depola, Lieutenant Steve Knechtel, Steve Knechtel Jr., Sergeant Bob Robbin, Sargent Don Smith, and Nick Smith, who saved three people in a boat sinking on Lake Washington
In addition, recognitions were granted to Jonna Mertens for 11 years of work serving the King County Parks Aquatics Division and to Tom Warren, King County Parks Aquatics Director who will retire soon after 30 years of work.
Water safety guidelines
- By law, children under 12 must always wear a lifejacket on boats under 19 feet.
- Wear a lifejacket when swimming in open water. Wear a lifejacket while in small boats, rafting, inner tubing, and 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 in lifeguarded areas.
- Drowning statistics show that swimming in unsupervised areas is especially dangerous for young people ages 12 to 24.
- Alcohol and water activities do not mix.
- Wear a Coast Guard-approved water skiing jacket or swimming vest. Skiing jackets are comfortable and allow for a greater range of motion, while swimming vests conveniently fit into a stuff sack.
- Learn what to do in an emergency (for example, take a CPR class).
For more information on participating pools, call the April Pools Day hotline at 206-726-3544 or visit www.seattleredcross.org.
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.