Fort Worth Magazine March 2015 : Page 92
good will Drowning prevention classes at the Eastside YMCA pool draw kids and their parents. Courtesy Fort Worth Drowning Prevention Coalition saving lives Drowning is often silent and can cause death in just a few minutes. A Fort Worth organization is teaching eternal vigilance around the water. | by Paul K. harral | he Fort Worth DroWn-T ing Prevention Coalition got its start From neWsPaPer artiCles in July 2012 when Pam Cannell noticed four stories about drowning victims in one week — including one of an accomplished tri-athlete in a North Texas lake. Cannell is an accomplished swimmer herself and a member of Team Ridglea, a U.S. Masters Swim Team, and called the team’s attention to the stories. The authors of the pop culture book Freakonomics caused somewhat of a stir in 2005 when they applied economic metrics to a variety of topics — and found that swimming pools are more dangerous in a household than guns. Current figures back that up. In the final report on 2010 death statistics in the 92 fwtx.com ~ March 2015 United States, National Vital Statistics Reports showed that 606 people died of accidental discharge of firearms that year and 3,782 from accidental drowning and submersion, although not all those deaths came in swimming pools. The number of drowning deaths has been declining slightly over the last few years, but since 2005 has replaced traffic incidents as the leading cause of death from unintentional injury for boys aged 1–4 years. But for every fatal drown-ing, there are five non-fatal drownings, and 60 percent of the victims suffer perma-nent brain injury. “A few members of the swim team were riding with Mayor Betsy Price in a rolling Town Hall and approached her with our concerns as well as a grassroots idea to address what appeared to us to be a growing problem,” Cannell said. The result was the Fort Worth Drowning Prevention Coalition, a vol-unteer-driven organization that provides low to no-cost drowning prevention classes to non-swimmers, both children and adults, in community swimming pools, and offers water safety classes to parents and caregivers on topics such as CPR, open water safety, family action safety plans and much more. Cannell tells the story of one woman who enrolled her 4-year-old son in drowning prevention lessons at the West-side YMCA in June 2014. At a birthday party partway through the course, she noticed that children were swimming in the backyard pool while the adults were visiting inside. She insisted that the adults come outside while the children were in the pool. The Texas Drowning Prevention Alli-ance reported that 73 children drowned in Texas in 2014, four of them in Tarrant County. That’s down from 82 with eight deaths in Tarrant County in 2013. Cannell is program director of the coalition, but the group’s advisory board has decided to incorporate and form a freestanding nonprofit with her as execu-tive director.