Drowning deaths in Washington have declined steadily the past 20 years but still happen more often than the national rate, according to the state Department of Health.
That sobering information was part of the underlying theme of an otherwise fun event last Saturday, as the Covington Aquatic Center and other public swimming pools throughout King County participated in April Pools Day.
The goal of the event was to emphasize safety in and around water for kids and adults as the warmer season approaches and people start spending more time around lakes and other bodies of water.
At the city-operated Covington pool, activities included water games, safety programs and contests. Pool personnel demonstrated water exercises, dive training and swimming lessons. The four hours began with a lap swim and concluded with an open swim. All activities were free and open to the public.
“There is no better way to start off the swimming season than to focus on family fun, physical activity and ways to stay safe in the water,” said Dr. David Fleming, director of the Seattle-King County Public Health Department, which promoted April Pools Day.
Fleming noted that water safety is a serious health issue countywide. According to the county’s medical examiner, 24 people died of drowning in King County last year. That toll was lower than in 2006, when 30 drowning fatalities were recorded, and another 17 people required hospitalization after nearly drowning.
Statewide last year, the death toll from drowning was 123.
Statistically, children are particularly vulnerable in the water. An average of 25 Washington children, ranging up to 17 years old, drown each year, according to state health officials. Among children younger than 5, most drownings occur in swimming pools and bathtubs.
WATER SAFETY TIPS
King County health and safety officials say:
• Swim only in designated areas with lifeguards.
• Always wear a life jacket when swimming or boating in lakes, rivers or Puget Sound.
• Supervise children and teens when they are in or near all types of water.
• Don’t drink alcohol around open water, and have sober adults to supervise children.
• Beware of fast-moving rivers, as the currents and cold temperatures can be extremely dangerous.
• Learn CPR.