It’s a startling statistic: Six people drown in U.S. pools everyday. But they don’t have to. A little common-sense information can make the difference between life and death.

That’s the impetus behind the World Waterpark Association’s sponsorship of National Water Safety Month. The annual event, which takes place in May, is designed to build public awareness of vital water-safety practices. As the organization representing waterparks all over the world, WWA coordinated and developed this special event as a way of supporting the waterpark industry’s efforts in placing its highest priority on keeping guests safe.

“Statistically, waterparks are the safest place for families to have fun in the water,” says WWA President Rick Root. “Compared to other recreational aquatic facilities–both guarded and unguarded, including community pools, beaches, lakes, etc.–waterparks have the lowest risk of danger from drowning.”

Despite the industry’s exemplary level of safety, WWA considers it a priority to educate the public about the potential risks to help lessen all possibilities of drownings under any circumstances. That’s because, unfortunately, drownings continue to be the result of people’s lack of knowledge regarding safe water practices.

Consider these sobering statistics from the Centers for Disease Control: Six people drown in U.S. pools every day. For every person who drowns, four times as many people nearly drown. Who is at greatest risk and under what circumstances?

The CDC offers the following grim facts:
* Young children and teens are at greatest risk. Children under 5 and adolescents between the ages of 15 and 24 have the highest drowning rates.
* Alcohol is often a contributing factor. Alcohol use is involved in a significant number of teen and adult drownings. In fact, alcohol is a major contributing factor in up to 50 percent of drownings among adolescent boys.
* Home can be the most dangerous place. Childhood drownings occur most often in residential swimming pools¡Xoften in the child¡¦s own backyard.
* If they don’t drown, victims still can suffer serious injuries. An estimated 5,000 children ages 14 and under are hospitalized due to near-drownings each year. As many as 20 percent suffer severe, permanent neurological disability.
* Swimming is a greater risk than riding in a car. A swimming pool is 14 times more likely than a motor vehicle to be involved in the death of a child under the age 4.

The sunshine that helps dispel these gloomy facts is that drowning deaths are nearly always preventable. And that’s what makes WWA’s efforts–and those of its participating members–so inspiring.

“With more information out there, more people are going to be aware of the steps necessary to stay safe,” Root explains. “Thus, WWA takes every opportunity to inform anyone who can help the cause.”

Part of that effort involves contacting every U.S. state governor and asking them to participate in supporting the event. Last year, WWA convinced 38 governors–a 21 percent increase in the number of state governors who supported the initiative in 2006–about the importance of water-safety awareness and education. Each of the governors issued statewide proclamations supporting National Water Safety Month. This year, WWA is anticipating even greater participation.

“We hope all organizations related to the water leisure recreation industry will take an active role in educating the public about water safety,” Root says. “As part of that effort, WWA invites participants in all areas of water leisure to get involved and support National Water Safety Month by sponsoring programs or events in their areas that ensure the public becomes more ¡¥water aware.”

“With everyone doing his or her part, we can help to greatly reduce the chances of you, your friends or family becoming drowning victims or being injured in the water.”

For more information on National Water Safety Month or to find out how your park might support this important safety effort, contact Aleatha Ezra, Director of Park Member Development at aezra@waterparks.org or call (913) 599-0300.

Be Water Aware During National Water Safety Month

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