Agencies suggest child supervision in water activities

The American Red Cross, Prevent Child Abuse Illinois (PCA Illinois), the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (IDCFS), the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) recently hosted a press conference to kick off the “Get Water Wise…Supervise!” campaign. This is a new statewide public awareness campaign to educate the public about the urgent need for adult supervision when children are in or near water. Drowning is the second leading cause of death for children younger than age 5 after motor vehicle accidents.

“Summer is a wonderful time of the year,” said Rahim Balsara, financial development director for the American Red Cross, Rock River Chapter. “Children and parents of Illinois look forward to outdoor activities at the pool, lake and beach, yet accidents can happen if families take a vacation from safety. Supervision is an important step that you can take to prevent drowning.”

In 2002, what may have started out as a day of summer fun, ended in the accidental drowning deaths of 18 children in Illinois including six in swimming pools, six in rivers and lakes, four in bathtubs, one in a quarry and one in a sump pump. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 350 children nationwide younger than age of 5 drown each year, and more than half of these occurred in the months of June, July and August.

Even the presence of a lifeguard does not replace individual adult supervision. Adults can be lulled into a false sense of security when a lifeguard is present or when children are wearing safety devices, such as water wings or flotation rings. Children must always be supervised in pools, lakes, ponds, bathtubs, near buckets of water or anywhere water is present. A small child can drown in as little as 2 inches of water.

The participating agencies would especially like to thank the Illinois Child Death Review Team for recommending this water safety campaign. The Child Death Review Team examines why each child younger than age 18 dies in the state of Illinois.

“Get Water Wise… Supervise!” was created because the Death Team found an increasing number of children have died in water-related accidents.

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