April 13, 2018—The United States is losing its children to accidental drownings at an alarming rate. In fact, drowning remains the leading cause of death for children under the age of 4 in most southern states with the majority of deaths occurring in backyard pools and spas.
May is National Drowning Prevention Month, so at a time in her life when she should be relaxing and enjoying her grandchildren, 72-year-old Marlene Bloom remains as passionate as ever about making Florida—which leads the nation in childhood drownings—the first “zero-drowning state” in the nation.
“Sadly, many of these deaths can be prevented with proper swim skills and survival tools taught to children before they even learn to walk,” says Bloom, founder of Baby Otter Swim School, which has taught thousands of children as young as 8 months old how to swim and prevent accidental drowning since 1978.
Baby Otter’s water survival lesson plan gets completed in just five, 30-minute private lessons and includes a graduation of sorts—a child is dropped into the water and must turn, kick and reach themselves back to safety. This ‘Turn, Kick, Reach’ methodology was designed and licensed by Bloom and serves as the program’s hallmark.
The month of May has historically signaled the beginning of a season that results in drowning tragedies across the country, and Bloom offers the following prevention tips to ensure child safety in and around the water:
- Supervision is the No. 1 layer of protection.
- Always have a reliable phone outside to call 911.
- If a child’s hair or clothing gets caught in drain never try to pull them out, turn off the pool pump immediately. Know where your pool pump is and how it works.
- Remove toys from pool after you finish swimming (toys act like a magnet for kids).
- Make sure pool fences are locked and equip door alarms on all doors leading to pool.
- If a child goes missing, the first place to look is in the pool.
- Know CPR.
- Teach your children how to swim at an early age.
Bloom, along with Baby Otter Co-Founder Mindy York, are educators in drowning prevention as well instructors. They serve as expert industry spokespersons on aquatic safety and water survival.
Billing itself “the World’s Fastest Learn-to-Swim and Water Safety Program,” Baby Otter and its team of instructors are spreading their wings this spring and now offer programming at Club Med’s Sandpiper Bay resort in Port St. Lucie, FL, and at The Westin Lombard Yorktown Center just outside Chicago.
Among her most ardent supporters is Major League Baseball Hall of Fame outfielder Andre Dawson.
Baseball fans remember his for his passionate play on the field, but for the past decade “The Hawk” has devoted his focus to swim safety for kids.
The 63-year-old Dawson employed the services of Bloom to learn how to swim at the age of 49 and has partnered with Baby Otter to bring the program to Chicago, where he spent 10 seasons patrolling the outfield at Wrigley Field and was National League MVP in 1987.
“You owe it to your children to get them in the water as early as possible,” says Dawson, the 1977 Rookie of the Year, 8-time All-Star, and 8-time Gold Glove winner. “The best part of this program is that in a five-day span a child learns how to turn, kick and reach to the point where they might have fallen in. Personally, I took on the challenge to learn how to swim when I was nearly 50, and it was one of the best decisions that I ever made.”
Facts and Figures
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger, and for every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries. Additionally:
- Ages 1-4 have the highest drowning rate, with most drownings occurring in home swimming pools.
- Drowning is responsible for more deaths among children ages 1-4 than any cause (except birth defects).
- For ages 1-14, fatal drowning remains the second leading cause of unintentional injury related death (behind motor vehicle crashes).
- The fatal unintentional drowning rate for African-Americans is significantly higher and that of Caucasians.
- The disparity is widest among children 5-18 and most pronounced in swimming pools.
- African-American children ages 5-19 drown in swimming pools at a rate 5.5 times higher than Caucasians of the same age
- African Americans ages 11-12 drown at a rate 10 times as high than Caucasians of the same age.
Her program has been used by professional athletes and celebrities including Gwyneth Paltrow, Mike Piazza, Barry Gibb and Rondell White to teach their children.
Source: Baby Otter Swim School