July 12, 2008

County Issues “Water Watcher” Tags to Prevent Accidental Drownings

By Alan Fackler, San Mateo County Times, Calif.

Jul. 12--The San Mateo County Health Department's Injury Prevention Program is distributing "Water Watcher" tags in an effort to increase water safety awareness and the supervision of young children.

The tags are being released to address growing local concerns about accidental drowning and water injuries among children. Drowning is the leading cause of death and injury of children under the age of 5 in the state of California, according to the San Mateo County Health Department.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted a similar trend. The CDC has reported that most young children who have drowned in residential pools were out of sight for an average of just five minutes, and were in the care of one if not both parents.

"Someone pitched the idea that if (adults) were to physically wear a tag, it would act as a reminder that it was their sole responsibility to watch the children," said Patrice Christensen, the Health Department's Injury Prevent Program coordinator. "In large groups, there's often a misconception that somebody is watching the child, when no one actually is."

Christensen recommended switching the tags between adults every 15 to 20 minutes, especially in large groups. If the designated Water Watcher needs to leave the general area, he or she should pass the tags on to another adult by hand to resume supervision.

The tags can be easily obtained at no cost by contacting the Injury Prevention Program

at (650) 573-2364. The tags are available in English and Spanish, and include various safety guidelines written on the back.

"Close supervision of young children around any body of water is essential," Dr. Anand Chabra, the county's director of maternal, child and adolescent health, wrote in an e-mail. "A young child can drown in as little as one to two inches of water."

Alan Fackler can be reached at (650) 348-4302 or [email protected]


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