International Water Safety Day
Today, May 15, is International Water Safety Day: a day to recognize the benefits of water safety, a day to learn about the tremendous lack of water safety around the globe, and a day to set the bar for water safety education in every family.
Around the world, a thousand people drown every day. Drowning has become a larger issue than even maternal morbidity and malaria, the two perennial biggies. It’s not that the problem has necessarily grown: it’s become a larger issue simply because officials are starting to notice the number of drownings –perhaps because of the cost to government?– and that it’s unnecessary. Aquatics people have known this for a century.
Learning to swim begins on land. How often have you heard:
- Don’t each too much turkey, you’ll sink!
- Don’t fall off the dock, you’ll drown.
- Lifejackets float: kids don’t. (This was a massive billboard on the San Francisco Bay Bridge twenty years ago!)
A good place to start with water safety is to make sure adults pass along correct information to their children and to other adults. After all, it’s the words of adults in their articles, books, movies, news, newsletters, homes, personal letters, and signs that find their way to listeners, young and old. Adults can do better.
Messages Miracle Swimming sends, which we invite you to broadcast:
Learning to swim is learning to be reliable for your safety in water over your head: once you learn that, you can learn strokes. Learning to swim and learning strokes are two different things.
Almost everyone floats. Even if your legs go to the bottom in shallow water, if you’re like the vast majority, your upper body is at the surface and that means it’s held up by the water: you float.
Correct floating can be horizontal, diagonal, or vertical, depending on your body type.
If you truly are a sinker, it’s not an emergency. The Olympic swimmers from almost every country are sinkers. But they are good swimmers: they know how the water works and they can get air whenever they please.
Drowning is not caused by the inability to do freestyle or any stroke: it’s caused most likely by panic in adults and by not knowing the water, in children. Many adults don’t know the water and this causes them to panic.
Making the world water-safe does not require teaching freestyle to kids. It requires teaching “how the water works” to adults and kids. Adults, once they learn to swim, can teach their kids for free, preventing hundreds of thousands of future drownings.
There are many “layers of protection” needed to end all drowning. But imagine if all adults knew how to swim? How many of their kids would learn to swim from them? What would happen to the drowning stats?
We hope you’ll let your public know about International Water Safety Day and start a conversation in your community.