Firefighters and paramedics have heard too often, "It happened so fast!" Unfortunately, a few seconds is all it takes for your child to drown. The purpose of Water Awareness Training for Children in the Home (W.A.T.C.H.), a community awareness and education program, is designed to reduce the number of drownings and near-drownings to children five and under that occur in or around the home. Unlike other programs, W.A.T.C.H. urges BOTH the ADULTS and CHILDREN to be responsible and actively participate in water safety. Each year throughout Los Angeles County almost 120 people lose their lives in drowning accidents, most of these victims are children. Most of these tragic accidents occurred in backyard pools, spas and bathtubs. Since most of these incidents involve children, the W.A.T.C.H program is vitally important.
In Los Angeles County, drowning is the leading cause of death for children between ages of 1 and 5. Backyard swimming pools account for approximately 70% of all drownings ia the home with the other 30% occurring in bathtubs, sinks, buckets and other bodies of water. There are a greater number of near-drownings which result in permanent disabling injuries. A child can drown in the time it takes to answer a phone; 77% of the victims had been missing for sight for 5 minutes or less. 65% of accidents occurred in the pool owned by the child's family. 33% of the accidents occurred in homes of friends and relatives where the child was a guest. Remember, children can drown in just inches of water.
The Five Step W.AT.C.H. program is very simple and works like this:
Step 1 W.A.T.C.H. asks that adults discuss with thier children the potential of drowning and near-drowning accidents occurring at home. Note, that pools and bath tubs pose the greatest threat.
Step 2 Adults take the children on a HOME WATER HAZARD HUNT, pointing out hazards along the way. Starting with the INSIDE of the home, using the W.A.T.C.H. checklist as a guide.
Step 3 Adults take the children on a HOME WATER HAZARD HUNT, pointing out hazards along the way. On the OUTSIDE of the house, using the W.A.T.C.H. checklist as a guide.
Step 4 Adults instruct the children to always have a designated "Watch Buddyn before entering a swimming pool, bathtub or other body of water. Their designated Watch Buddy will be responsible for supervising all of their water activities. Their "Watch Buddy" would be in close proximity to the child and keep their eyes on them AT ALL TIMES. Instruct the child that if for any reason his or her "Watch Buddy" leaves the area, the qhild is simply instructed to YELL AND SCREAM and IMMEDIATELY - GET OUT OF THE WATER OR HAVE THEIR WATCH BUDDY PULL THEM OUT! This not only makes the adult accountable for the child's safety, but also asks the child to be responsible as well.
Step 5 Ensure that EVERYONE in the household knows what to do and how to get help if a drowning or neardrowning accident should occur. The county of Los Angeles Fire Department believes that working together we can make a difference in preventing these tragic drownings and near-drownings fiom continuing to take the lives of our children.