Best practices for preventing drowning topic from the California Water Safety Summit in Newport Beach

The second annual California Water Safety Summit, a two-day event, kicked off at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel and Spa on Monday morning with the announcement of the formation of the California Water Safety Coalition.

The coalition is a fledgling organization that seeks to unite nonprofits, advocates, and public safety personnel to imagine and advance best practices in drowning prevention. This is a joint effort between the local Ben Carlson Memorial and Scholarship Foundation and the ZAC Foundation, a Fairfield, Connecticut-based nonprofit organization that focuses on water safety.

Chris Carlson, co-founder of the Ben Carlson Memorial and Scholarship Foundation, said the death of his son, Ben – a Newport Beach lifeguard who died rescuing a stranded swimmer in 2014 – was the catalyst that brought him to discuss drowning prevention and water safety.

“What I saw following his accident was all these amazing people working on all these different things…I’m an engineer and a consultant by profession, I saw this and it was like, ‘ What are we doing to align these efforts?” said Carlson.

Newport Beach Fire Chief Jeff Boyles delivers opening remarks at the California Water Safety Summit on Monday, the first of the two-day event.

(Scott Smeltzer / staff photographer)

The first summit took place in 2019, although the organizers had not yet precisely defined the objectives of the foundation. So they reached out to groups statewide that dealt with water safety, and eventually heard about the ZAC Foundation through its executive director, Megan Ferraro.

“All of these people were doing great things on their own, but could we do something to align it and speed it up and just get everyone to drive in the right direction in each of their various security expertises aquatic?” Carlson said.

The hope was to hold a follow-up convention in 2020, but the pandemic hit. Workshops to determine the goals of what would become the California Water Safety Coalition were held in September 2021, and they began planning for the summit in October.

A beach on Memorial Day weekend in 2020.

Beachgoers practice social distancing while sunbathing near Newport Pier in Newport Beach during Memorial Day weekend in May 2020. The summer season is usually the peak of water rescues in communities local.

(Raul Roa)

Rob Williams, co-chair of the Rescue and CPR Task Force for the US National Water Safety Action Plan, said the goal of the 2022 summit was to bring stakeholders together in the same room. and establish networks between them.

“When I go to talk to the state guards or I talk to [city officials], we all speak the same language and we understand each other, but when we go talk to someone at the pool? Or a lake person? We may not speak the same language,” said Williams, who is also a former Newport Beach chief lifeguard. “But, we say the same things.

“That’s what we think is important about this coalition; it’s about bringing everyone together and learning so that the people who work on pools in Northern California can influence things here. Next, the Russian River lifejacket lending program is similar to the lifejacket programs run by the Port Department.

Tessa Clemens of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control speaks via Zoom.

Tessa Clemens of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control provides statistics via Zoom during the California Water Safety Summit at the Newport Beach Marriott on Monday, March 21.

(Scott Smeltzer / staff photographer)

In California, the state’s Department of Developmental Services reported that drowning was a leading cause of injury-related death in children under age 5. In California swimming pools alone, about 35 children ages 5 and under died in 2019.

It’s also a trend that holds true nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death in children aged 1 to 14.

Locally, the peak of rescue season for lifeguards in Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach and Newport Beach is during the summer, when tourists as well as local residents recreate in the ocean.

In Laguna Beach, lifeguards have performed an average of 5,000 rescues per year since 2015.

In 2021, Newport Beach lifeguards performed 2,184 rescues and took preventative action 79,943 times. In Huntington Beach, there were 3,551 rescues last year and crews responded to 8,451 preventive action calls.

“At Newport Beach, we are deeply touched by these [drowning-related] tragedies, whether they affect local families or people who come from other parts of the country,” said Newport Beach Mayor Kevin Muldoon. “We have a heightened awareness of the real loss that results from drowning.”

Karen Cohn, co-founder of the ZAC Foundation, speaks.

ZAC Foundation co-founder Karen Cohn speaks at the California Water Security Summit at the Newport Beach Marriott on Monday, March 21. The foundation was founded in 2008 after her 6-year-old son, Zachary, died in a swimming pool drain entrapment accident.

(Scott Smeltzer / staff photographer)

Fire Chief Jeff Boyles said the department is pushing for more CPR training throughout the community to “bridge the gap” between the arrival of paramedics and rescuers and life-threatening incidents. as they occur.

“I think it’s important for all public safety professionals to raise awareness about drowning,” said chief lifeguard Brian O’Rourke. “It’s preventable. Through public safety, education, and prevention and intervention, we can reduce or eliminate the numbers. By bringing together a coalition of people from all kinds of disciplines such as swimming pools, oceans, business and all those foundations, we could raise awareness of this and hopefully make a dent, especially in Southern California.

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Jessica C. Bell