Turning the tides on child drowning
Rebecca Wear Robinson
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Adopt these key water safety messages.

by Rebecca Wear Robinson on April 11, 2012


There are as many messages about water safety as there are organizations and individuals working on the issue – which makes it pretty confusing to the general public. The irony is that all the messages are pretty much the same. I think we need to make them uniformly consistent – globally.

Below are the Open Water Drowning Prevention Key Messages developed by an International Task Force and presented at the World Conference on Drowning Prevention in Vietnam last May. I strongly suggest that all of us working in the drowning prevention field adopt these messages, verbatim, in our communication efforts.

Care of Self
Learn swimming and water survival skills.
Always swim with others.
Obey all safety signs and warning flags.
Never go in the water after drinking alcohol.
Know how and when to use a life jacket.
Swim in areas with a lifeguard.
Know the weather and water conditions before getting in the water.
Always enter shallow and unknown water feet first.

Care of Others
Help and encourage others, especially children, to learn swimming and water safety survival skills.
Swim in areas with lifeguards.
Set water safety rules.
Always provide close and constant attention to children you are supervising in or near water.
Know how and when to use a life jacket, especially with children and weak swimmers.
Learn first aid and CPR.
Learn safe ways of rescuing others without putting yourself in danger.
Obey all safety signs and warning flags.

I will make one observation. Safety signs and warning flags – there is no consistent global format or system. We can’t change that overnight, but we need to start working towards a predictable and consistent system in terms of what flags mean, where signs are posted, what is included in the warnings. If we make the public guess every time they read a sign, they won’t read the sign. Sounds like we need another International Task Force to address the signage/warning flag issue – and then agreement that we will all work to move our countries to the new system.

Who’s on board with adopting the Key Tasks and moving to more consistency? Let me know so we can add your name to the list.

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