Safe Swimming: How to Develop a Site-Specific Drowning Prevention Program in Your Aquatic Facility

Article excerpt

It is crucial for aquatic facility and pool operators to understand the risks associated with aquatics. This is relevant to all pools including residential pools, lodging industry pools, public and private pools. It is essential that owners/operators identify, anticipate and evaluate the risks relevant to their facilities and circumstances so they can effectively manage for these risks.

Risk management is not just the duty of management staff, but should include all personnel and be incorporated into all facets of pool operations in order to be effective. For staffed pools this includes any person that has a responsibility to the pool, and for residential and unstaffed pools this may include family members or responsible users. Aquatic facilities can not survive without risk management planning that includes developing a specific drowning prevention program.

Following motor vehicle accidents, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death in children between the ages of 0-14 in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, for every drowning, there are four hospitalized near-drownings and 11 treated near-drownings. A study by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 1980 estimated that 69 percent of children younger than 5 years of age were under the supervision of one or both parents at the time of drowning. Furthermore, 77 percent of these children had been unsupervised for less than five minutes prior to the drowning incident. Since a child may be completely submerged and unconscious in 30 seconds or less, aquatic professionals stress constant supervision. However, supervision alone is not a satisfactory prevention strategy, as lapses in supervision occur.

One approach to addressing this problem is the implementation of programs that effectively manage for risks by reducing the number of submersion

incidents and preventing deaths by drowning. Many experts and organizations dedicated to aquatic safety, believe that drowning is preventable by applying targeted prevention strategies. Since one of the responsibilities of a pool owner/operator is to minimize and prevent submersion injuries and drowning, an accident prevention strategy or a site-specific drowning prevention program can be one part of a multifaceted approach in aquatic risk management planning.

By successfully managing risks and developing a site-specific drowning prevention program, managers or pool owners can reduce fatal accidents at any aquatic facility. Ultimately, these strategies require a comprehensive and cooperative effort from all staff, family members and pool users. Furthermore, experts recommend many layers of protection because one single strategy is not likely to prevent all submersion deaths and injuries. Hence a site-specific drowning prevention program would incorporate essential elements of risk management planning and provide layers of protection.

Though it is generally believed that lifeguards are responsible for aquatic safety and reducing risks and the likelihood of a favorable outcome from a drowning incident is increased with the presence of lifeguards, many swimming facilities exist that do not employ staff or lifeguards. It should also be noted that 90 to 95 percent of drowning incidents occur in unstaffed or residential pools, according to the Foundation for Aquatic Injury Prevention.

Although the critical components of a drowning prevention program listed below are for residential swimming pools, these components can be transferred to and utilized by any swimming facility. Respondents placed importance on a consistent set of criteria throughout the study and continually identified constant supervision, water safety and swimming lessons, fences with self latching and locking gates, rescue equipment, and CPR certification as critical components. By combining these components according to the needs of a swimming facility, a site-specific drowning prevention program will be designed that minimizes risk and provides layers of protection against risk. …