DCF Reminds Parents of Water Safety as the Summer Season Comes to a Close

Press Release:
August 22, 2014

DaMonica Rivas
DCF Northwest Region Communications Director

DCF Reminds Parents of Water Safety as the Summer Season Comes to a Close
Families are urged to use caution as they engage in water activities

PANAMA CITY— Today the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) in partnership with the Panama City Beach Aquatics Center, Bay County Emergency Medical Services, Panama City Beach Police Department along with representatives from Big Bend Community Based Care and Children's Home Society held a news conference to promote water safety, CPR training, swimming lessons and water emergency preparedness.

As families rush to squeeze in their last beach visit or boating day before the summer ends, it is still very important that parents and caregivers remain mindful of water safety practices and drowning prevention strategies.

“Northwest Florida is home to some of the most beautiful natural bodies of water,” said DCF Northwest Region Managing Director Vicki Abrams. “However, in a split second, an end of the season beach trip may turn in to a tragedy. But, knowing CPR, getting your kids into swimming lessons, and always keeping a watchful eye when they are in or around water may prevent a water emergency.”

In May, the department launched the first phase of the Water Safety Campaign urging parents and caregivers to keep their “Eyes on the Kids,” and to avoid any distractions that could take focus away from children when they’re swimming or near water. The second phase of the water safety campaign directs parents and caregivers to CPR classes and resources from the YMCA, Red Cross and the American Heart Association. Since the start of this year, 51 alleged reports of child drownings have been called into the Florida Abuse Hotline. In Florida, drowning is the leading cause of death for children under the age of 4.

"In any emergency, including water emergencies, the first and most important thing is to remain calm and immediately call 911,” said Panama City Beach Police Chief Drew Whitman. “When a child is not breathing every second counts, remove the child from the water and correctly administer CPR as soon as possible, you give first responders a better chance in saving a child’s life."

"Parents can't take their eyes off kids," said Bay County EMS Director Corky Young. "Thirty seconds is all it takes for a child to be in trouble and potentially drown - that includes swimming pools, ponds and bathtubs. Citizens should also be aware of secondary drowning, especially in saltwater. If saltwater remains in the lungs it can draw fluid from bodily tissues and cause the lungs to fill with water. A lot of people aren't aware of that."

There are many layers of protection that can prevent child drowning deaths.

  • Supervision: Someone should always be actively watching children when they are in the pool. Don’t play on your phone or get involved in a big conversation while watching the kids. Drowning can happen in just a few minutes. Designate a “Water Watcher” to keep an eye on swimmers.
  • Barriers: A child should never be able to enter the pool area unaccompanied by an adult. Barriers physically block a child from the pool. Barriers include: child-proof locks on all doors, a pool fence with self-latching and self-closing gates, as well as door and pool alarms.
  • Swimming Lessons: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ages 4 and older learn to swim in order to help prevent drowning. It also encourages caregivers of children ages 1-3 to consider swim instruction for their child, as studies have shown it reduces drowning incidents.
  • Emergency Preparedness: The moment a child stops breathing there is a small, precious window of time in which resuscitation may occur, but only if someone knows what to do. Even if you’re not a parent, it’s important to learn CPR. The techniques are easy to learn and can mean the difference between life and death. In an emergency, it is critical to have a phone nearby and immediately call 911.

High resolution images, two drowning prevention PSAs and additional resources for media are available for distribution by visiting www.myflfamilies.com/watersafety.

To learn more about CPR or find a CPR certification course, visit www.myflfamilies.com/watersafety or call 2-1-1 to learn about resources in your local area.
For more information on drowning prevention and statistics, visit www.waterprooffl.com.