Local task force focuses on pool safety

Filed under DAYTONA BEACH

Speakers emphasize importance of swimming lessons for children during April 19 event at Aquatic Center

BY SHAUNA NABORS
SPECIAL TO THE DAYTONA TIMES

Enough children drown each year in Florida to fill three to four preschool classrooms. Drowning is the leading cause of death among Florida children ages one to four, and Florida’s rate of toddler drownings leads the nation.

Top: Two-year-old Olivia Birkedal began taking water safety lessons at 11 months old. She shows her swim instructor, Gretchen LeCompte, how she can float on her back in the water. Above: Danielle Zili, director of Business Development and Marketing at Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center, Lt. Larry Stoney, public information officer, Daytona Beach Fire Department, and Stefany Strong, public information officer with the Volusia County Heath Department organized the news conference to promote pool safety. Not shown is Susan Cerbone, public information officer for the City of Daytona Beach. (PHOTOS BY SHAUNA NABORS/SPECIAL TO THE DAYTONA TIMES)

Daytona Beach community leaders are coming together to raise awareness about drowning prevention in hopes of saving lives.

“Drowning can be a silent catastrophe, one that can happen in the few minutes you take to answer a phone call or run inside for a towel,” said Dr. Bonnie J. Sorensen, director of the Volusia County Health Department. “We encourage parents to watch children around water and take measures to make sure they are safe.”

At least eight drownings in 2011
After at least eight toddler drowning deaths in Volusia County last year, the Volusia County Health Department, Daytona Beach Fire Department, Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center, Halifax Health, Volusia/Flagler Family YMCA, Safe Kids and other partners formed the Volusia County Drowning Prevention Task Force to raise awareness about pool safety. So far, there have been zero toddler drownings in the area this year.

Daytona Beach Mayor Glenn Ritchey was one of five speakers at a news conference held at the Cypress Aquatic Center on April 19 to address the issue.

“We are here to deliver a very important and sobering message about pool safety,” Ritchey said.

“It is important for our residents and visitors to stay safe in and around water. We applaud the efforts of all of the partners gathered here today to promote drowning prevention measures in our community.”

The Daytona Beach Fire Department is on the frontline when it comes to responding to toddler drownings and near drownings in the city.

Swim lessons for children urged
“Parents and caregivers, it is essential to ensure your child receives swimming lessons before entering the water,” said Chief James Bland, Daytona Beach Fire Department.

Gretchen LeCompte, a parent and swim instructor, wasted little time in introducing her toddler, Riley, to swim lessons. Riley and the other toddlers showed off their skills by floating and swimming in the pool with their parents and swim instructors nearby.

“It is extremely important to teach children how to swim for their own safety,” LeCompte said.

“There are many different situations where you would feel far more assured to know that your child is able to swim.”

Layers of protection
Water Proof Florida, the Department of Health’s drowning prevention campaign, recommends the following layers of protection:

Supervision: The first and most crucial layer of protection, supervision, means someone is always actively watching when a child is in the pool.

Barriers: A child should never be able to enter the pool area unaccompanied by a guardian. Barriers should physically block a child from the pool.

Emergency preparedness. The moment a child stops breathing, there is a small, precious window of time in which resuscitation may be possible – 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.

For more information, visit www.waterproofFl.com.

Shauna Nabors is a Mass Communications senior at Bethune-Cookman University graduating in May. She is a Public Information intern at the Volusia County Health Department.

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