To help quell injuries or loss of young lives, Safe Kids Washoe County and REMSA are teaming up and launching “Water Watcher,” a water safety campaign pressing for more adult supervision of children ages 14 and under when swimming in pools or other bodies of water. Water Watcher would provide parents or guardians with a whistle to blow for help and a safety tip card with directions to follow if a child is in trouble in water.
“Unfortunately, accidents and drowning frequently happen within visual range of the adults, so this is meant to encourage them and be more active (through supervision),” said Melissa Krall, director of community outreach for REMSA.
The whistle comes on a neck lanyard and the card offers specific instructions, such as calling 911 and drawing help for a rescue, Krall said.
Safe Kids Washoe County is an extension of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations and coalitions in 16 countries that brings together experts, educators and government officials to raise awareness on accidental childhood injuries.
The late spring to summer seasons, specifically May to September, are the most popular outdoor water recreation months for families, Krall said, so it’s crucial that parents take special care in ensuring their children’s safety in bodies of water.
“If there were some of us who’d go the lake, you’d think I’m watching the kids and I’d think Joe is watching the kids and Joe would think you’re watching the kids and then nobody’s watching,” she said. “It’s important the kids take turns. It’s not meant to lasso one person into the responsibility.”
Krall said if there are several adults present, each one should take a 15-minute shift and actively watch the kids without reading, talking on a cell phone or texting, regardless of whether or not the child is wearing water wings or using other water safety devices.
Christine Gay, a Spanish Springs resident and mother of twin 3-year-olds Carter and Parker, spent a few hours splashing with her sons in narrow waters of the Sparks Marina, along with Christine’s mother Jacqui Gay. Both mother and grandmother were vigilant about the boys’ safety, keeping a close eye on one or the other at times, especially if they started wading out a little too deep.
“Sometimes they don’t understand the word ‘stop,’ ” Jacqui said.
Christine said watching her sons herself right now is the only viable option as her sons grow and as she and her husband have to manage other obligations, stating that “it’s all business” when it comes to learning how to swim and being mindful of their surroundings.
“They want to swim, but we’ve had a hard time getting lessons as my husband and I work opposite schedules,” she said. “At the Parks and Recreation Department, you need one parent per child and we have two, so we might take the kids to Red Hawk as you only need one parent present.”
According to Safe Kids Worldwide, drowning is the second highest cause of unintentional death for children ages 1 to 4 and 10 to 14. About three out of four pool submersion deaths and three out of five pool submersion injuries occur at a home pool. Children can drown in water as shallow as 1 inch.
Safe Kids also reports there are about 830 child deaths related to unintentional drowning and 3,600 injuries after near-drowning accidents. Drowning is the second leading killer of children.
The campaign is well-timed with the recent opening of the new whitewater park at Rock Park, Krall said, and local pools are equipped with well-trained lifeguard staff. She urged that families take care, however, with the Truckee River because it can be swift-moving and is colder than most people realize. The Truckee is not supervised by a lifeguard and response times for help may take longer for REMSA crews to locate, obtain and transport victims to the nearest facility.
“It only takes a moment,” Krall said.
Water Watcher whistles and cards are being distributed at the following locations:
Double Diamond Athletic Club, 9400 Double Diamond Parkway, Reno
REMSA front desk, 450 Edison Way, Reno
St. Mary's Urgent Care, Galena, 18653 Wedge Parkway (west side of building), Reno
St. Mary's Urgent Care, 5975 Los Altos Parkway, Suite 100, Sparks
St. Mary's Urgent Care, 6770 S. McCarran Blvd., Reno
St. Mary’s Urgent Care, 6180 MaeAnne Ave., Suite 1, Reno
Sierra Adventures, Silver Legacy Business Center, 407 N. Virginia, Reno
Sparks Parks and Recreation Swim Classes, Alf Sorenson, 400 Baring Blvd., Sparks.
Sun Valley Community Pool, 115 W. Sixth Ave., Sun Valley
Bowers Mansion Regional Park, 4005 U.S. 395, Washoe Valley
Truckee River Foundation Stay Afloat Safety Fair on July 18 at Wingfield Park, Reno
Contributing to this report is Dan McGee, special to the Tribune.