AUSTIN (KXAN) — After a spike in children drowning in Central Texas, national water safety experts traveled to Austin to create a plan, and a team.
“Last year in 2019 we had 10 fatal child drownings and this year we have one. We really believe that it is the efforts of the Central Texas water prevention action team,” said Alissa Magrum, the executive director of Colin’s Hope, an Austin based water safety program.
The action team focuses on Travis, Williamson, Bastrop and Hays counties. It is comprised of community leaders, Austin-Travis County EMS, health professionals including Dell Children’s Medical Center, Colin’s Hope and led by national water safety nonprofit The ZAC Foundation.
The team was able to reach 410,000 families with its water safety message, even during a pandemic.
“We have our water safety quiz which is what was in the Austin utility bills,” Magrum said. The utility bills in July contained the message: “Drowning Is Fast. Silent. Preventable. Take The Quiz. Learn Water Safety Tips,” with a link to the water safety quiz.
“It’s 10 questions, from don’t leave a child unattended in the bathtub to how to get out of a rip current. It just provides simple education,” Magrum said.
Although the pandemic closed many public swimming pools, the drowning prevention action team feared children may have even greater access to water.
“Locally, we have a lot of backyard pools in Central Texas and we have a lot of open water as well, we have lakes rivers and ponds. Having that greater access all over the place to water was going to spike,” Magrum said.
The ZAC Foundation is also spearheading the development of drowning prevention plans in three other U.S. communities — Fairfield County, Conn., Chicago and St. Louis.
“There is a national drowning prevention action plan that is underway and the work that has been done in Central Texas will feed into that national plan,” said Megan Ferraro, executive director of The ZAC Foundation.