Lifeguards kept keen eyes on children who splashed, swam and waded during Forest Park Pool’s opening day this weekend.
Safe Swim, an eight-lesson program, kicks off today at the pool, and it also aims to keep swimmers safe.
“Our slogan is ‘two seconds is too long to turn your back on a child in the water,’” said Pamela Cannell, director of Fort Worth Drowning Prevention Coalition.
More than 3,000 people drown each year in the United States, Cannell said. According to data gathered from Cook Children’s Center, 60 percent of those who drown in Fort Worth are Caucasian one to four-year-olds.
“That’s a little different than nationwide statistics,” Cannell said, adding that the number of children who drown nationwide tends to be higher among minorities.
Media across the nation reported that 137 children younger than age 15 drowned in a pool or spa between Memorial Day and Labor Day in 2012, a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission report said. At least 100 of those who drowned were younger than age five.
David Parise, athletic superintendent for the city of Fort Worth, said he expected a crowd during opening day this weekend at Forest Park Pool.
“We usually have several hundred,” he said.
Because Forest Park Pool had been closed for renovation, opening day was free last year, Parise said. The pool had nearly 500 visitors on Memorial Day in 2013.
Attendance will rise around mid to late June, Parise said, because of warmer water temperatures.
Cannell said Safe Swim, which is not swimming lessons, wants more people to be aware that while a child is in a swimming pool they should not be talking on their phone or reading a magazine.
“It’s keep eyes on kids while they’re in the water,” she said.
Last year, 67 volunteers spent more than 1,200 hours delivering the drowning prevention program to the community, Cannell wrote in an email. Participants in the Safe Swim program ranged from age three to 68 and mirrored Fort Worth demographics.
“Drowning is silent, not like in the movies where someone is splashing around and calling for help,” she wrote. “The autonomic response of the body prohibits this thrashing from occurring.”
Cannell said the idea for Safe Swim came about when a group of master swimmers realized a need for the program after looking at data which showed Texas topping the nation in pool drowning deaths.
“We realized we were number one in the country,” she said, “and Tarrant County had a significant problem.”
Cannell said the group initially thought that most drowning would be associated with poor swimmers or those who were not in good physical condition.
“But when we started looking into it, it was actually more often associated with backyard pools,” she said.
For more information about the Safe Swim program, visit http://www.fwdpc.org/default.asp?page=learn_to_be_safe