Jack was 4 ½ years old when he wandered, unnoticed, to the lake in the backyard of our rental home and fatally drowned. I believed him to have been safely upstairs with his grandmother and two siblings. When it was discovered that Jack was missing, a search began. The lake never crossed my mind as the first place to look. Due to his interest in learning to swim, we had recently taught Jack two rules: Always have a grown-up with him to go near water and always wear his life vest. I never thought he would break the rules and go near the water alone. I also thought my vigilance was enough to keep my children safe. Even though CPR was started immediately after he was pulled from the water and continued at the ER, it was too late for our beautiful boy.
While we did some things right regarding water safety, there were many things we did not know:
- We did not know drowning is silent and quick.
- We did not know to always check the water first if a child is missing.
- We did not know how crucial barriers, like gates and fences, are to keeping kids away from water.
- We did not know drowning is a leading cause of death of children ages 1-4 years.
- We did not know just how important swim lessons are to lowering the risk of drowning.
- We did not know a classroom curriculum existed that teaches and empowers young children to make safer choices near water. A program that also educates parents and communities.
We believe drowning prevention education should be taught in every preschool and lower elementary classroom. We believe that had Jack learned about water safety at preschool, he would have made safer choices near the water that day. We believe that had we, Jack’s parents, learned about the serious dangers surrounding water we would have insisted the property owner install appropriate barriers immediately, or installed them ourselves. We believe we would have prioritized swim lessons above all other activities.
We believe Jack would still be here if we had known these critical facts. Our hope is that parents will learn from what we did not know and apply these lessons in their families without hesitation.
Now is the time to install door alarms and proper barriers around pools and between the home and open water.
Now is the time to put the kids (and yourself if you are not a swimmer) in swim lessons and continue classes until water competency is achieved. Learn more about water competency at: https://www.watersafetyusa.org/water-competency.html
Now is the time to learn CPR to be prepared in the event of an emergency.
Now is the time to educate your family, friends, and caregivers on water safety and drowning prevention.
Now is the time to speak with your local school about implementing a water safety education curriculum into the classroom.
Now before there is no later.