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Today is International Water Safety Day

5/15/2013

By Mike Gustafson//Correspondent

400,000. That’s how many people die from drowning. Every. Single. Year. Interbational Water Safety Day

400,000 is roughly the size of the city limits of Miami. Or Tulsa. Or Omaha. Imagine these cities completely wiped out from drowning, every year and each year. Many of these are preventable deaths. Deaths that could have been avoided by just knowing some basic swimming skills and information about the water. Tips like don’t swim alone. Always swim with a friend. Don’t swim during bad weather. Enter feet first.

Today, May 15th, is International Water Safety Day. Today we remember those 400,000 victims, and we try to combat that number. All across the nation, there are demonstrations of water safety, swim teams spreading the message of water safety, and educators teaching students about water safety. If you are just now finding out about this day, don’t fret about it: Just get out and talk about water safety within your local community. Speaking to a few people today could make a world of difference. Especially considering the aforementioned drowning deaths number.

To raise awareness, today in Washington D.C.,, members of various swim-affiliated organizations, including the USA Swimming Foundation, the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club, and the American Red Cross, will meet at Capitol Hill. They’ll meet with leaders of Congress to discuss the lack of water safety education and what we can do to get more water safety instruction in our classrooms. Nate Tschohl, one of the founders of International Water Safety Day, discussed with me what today’s message is all about:

“When you talk about 400,000 people a year, it boggles your mind. You grew up swimming your whole life,” Nate explains. “[Swimming is] something that we as swimmers, swim teams, swim coaches all take for granted. I’d really like to see more swimmers and swim teams being active about water safety and spreading that message.”

Perhaps the highlight of the week takes place this weekend. On Saturday, the USA Swimming FoundationMake a Splash celebrates National Water Safety Month. They are planning a big New York City event in conjunction with their Make a Splash Tour presented by Phillips 66 in which National Teamers Cullen Jones, Lia Neal, Josh Schneider, and Jimmy Feigen will head to 10 different NYC pools to spread the message about water safety. They’ll give swimming lessons to kids who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity. They’ll talk to local parents. Even the Empire State Building will be lit blue to celebrate National Water Safety Month and in honor of the USA Swimming Foundation.

“Make a Splash has reached more than 1.8 million children, but there is still more work to be done,” said Debbie Hesse, Executive Director of the USA Swimming Foundation. “With pools around the country opening up in just a few weeks, this is an excellent time to spread awareness about our mission of saving lives by teaching kids to swim and be safe around the water during National Water Safety Month.”

The USA Swimming Foundation is doing its part. Other organizations are attempting to do theirs, too. Together, we can all help decrease that 400,000 number.

But it’s not just about a day, or a week, or a month. It’s about a message that needs to be continuously spread throughout our communities. When you consider that drowning is the 3rd leading cause of accidental death worldwide, there is much we can do as a swimming community.

Take initiative today on International Water Safety Day. Especially considering that pools will soon open, kids will be let out of school, and more drownings will occur. Ask your local schools what they are doing to educate students about water safety. If you live near New York, spread the word that the USA Swimming Foundation will be out and about giving lessons to children across the city. Or, this month, celebrate National Water Safety Month by just asking some friends if they know how to swim.

Spread the message.

“It’s so simple: It’s not our day,” Tschohl explains. “It’s everybody’s day. So many people don’t even know how to swim. They might not even see it as a risk. And that’s the problem.”