The History of Water Safety Month

May is our favorite month at Foss Swim School. It’s the month when everyone starts getting ready for summer and when the daydreams about time at the pool, beach, or waterpark start.

We also love May because it is Water Safety Month, a time when we share our passion for water safety with our FOSS families and anyone we can reach, while other organizations do the same. The goal of Water Safety Month is to draw extra focus to this critical issue before the summer swim season starts, in hopes that we can reach more parents and swimmers to give them information that will make them more aware and deliberate about water safety.

We are especially proud to participate in Water Safety Month because of its consistent, well-planned messaging and support from major organizations. Unlike some “national whatever days” that are informally announced and exist mostly on social media, Water Safety Month is a formal effort with sponsors that help it achieve its goals.

Fourteen years of Water Safety Month

The first National Water Safety Month was held in May 2007. It was a merging of two smaller efforts, the World Waterpark Association’s National Water Safety Week (which was held in June from 2003-2006) and the National Recreation and Park Association’s National Aquatics Week, held in July 2004-2006. When they combined efforts, the National Water Safety Month was born.

By joining forces and expanding to a month of activities, National Water Safety Month grew in reach and impact. The national association of the pool and spa industry and the American Red Cross joined in the following years, adding to its heft. Today, the group produces and organizes “educational programs, public service announcements, governmental proclamations, dealer and business promotions, and easy-to-access water safety materials.”

Advocates like FOSS and others both share official NWSM messages and contribute our own efforts to spreading the word.

Key water safety facts – and signs of progress

One important and consistent message of Water Safety Month is that everyone should know the scale of drowning risks. While parents are rightly concerned about all manner of hazards for their kids, drowning is the second most common cause of accidental death for children, following only auto accidents. The key message: doing what you can to improve water safety should be near the top of every parent’s to-do list, starting with never leaving kids unattended around water and including enrollment in formal swim lessons.

  • 88%: The estimated drowning risk reduction for kids aged 1-4 years when they participated in formal swim lessons. (See the study here.)
  • 3500: That’s how many Americans, 20% of them under the age of 14, drown each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s about 10 per day.
  • 1 per 100,000: That’s the annual drowning rate in the US. Adjusted for population, it has been largely steady since 2001; in the late 1970’s the rate was triple what it is today.
  • 87%: This is the percentage of drownings for kids aged 1-5 years that occur in home pools or hot tubs. Older kids are more likely to drown in ponds, lakes, or other natural water.

Check out FOSS Water Safety Month stories and resources

We have been celebrating Water Safety Month for years. Each year, we try to add something new and interesting to educate people and help them take steps to improve their families’ safety around water.

Of course, the number one resource is swim lessons. We strongly encourage you to enroll at any accredited learn-to-swim program (including, of course, Foss Swim School.) We were founded with water safety as our driving mission, and we are proud to have helped hundreds of thousands of people learn to love water and become stronger, safer, more confident swimmers.

Looking for additional tips and tools? Here is a collection that we have created over the years:

We hope you have found this helpful, and hope you’re looking forward to a summer of (safer) fun as much as we are!

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