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Press Release for Immediate Release – Friday, June 16, 2017

Contacts: Steve Barrow, CA Coalition for Children’s Safety and Health (CCCSH) scbarrow88@gmail.com or cell 530 902-5551 or Marcia Kerr, So.CA Representative Drowning Prevention Foundation, mkerr44@gmail.com, 949-300-0394

Drowned Children’s Parents and First Responders

Meet with State Senator Authoring Drowning Prevention Law Changes

Today, in the southern California city of Fullerton parents who have lost a child due to a pool drowning and first responder representatives met with Senator Newman, who is authoring legislation to address residential pool drowning. Nicky, Jasper, Cody, and Jasmine are children under the age of five, who died due to backyard pool drowning. They were represented by their parents in the meeting and press event with the Senator, to discuss the hard realities drowning has on children’s siblings, parents, family and community. First responder and Children’s Hospital Orange County, representatives experienced in the trauma of drowning joined the meeting and press conference. The purpose of the meeting and follow up press conference was to discuss how state level policies impact local efforts to stop drowning as the leading cause of death for California’s one to four year old population.[1]

Drowning is preventable,” stressed Marcia Kerr, who lives in Orange County and lost her son Cody at age two due to pool drowning. “We need every parent, caregiver and pool owner to better understand how these preventable tragedies can be avoided. Each of the children’s drowning stories displayed at this event are heart wrenching and hard to see and read, but these are true stories. They help us all have a better understanding about the realities of backyard drowning, and therefore better enabled to understand what needs to be done to prevent drowning before it

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 happens. Unfortunately the reality is that in California, that for every child that suffers a fatal drowning, another five children drown, but are revived, with many suffering permanent brain damage.

According to California’s Department of Public Health EPICenter (http://epicenter.cdph.ca.gov/) and Center for Disease Control (WISQARS[2] – Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System) drowning is the leading cause of death for California’s children ages one through four years old. A recent review of California’s EPICenter data found that from 2010 to 2014 more than 160 children aged one through four years old suffered a fatal drowning, with the majority of these young child drowning incidents involving residential pools. From 2010 to 2015 over 740 California children ages one through four years old were hospitalized due to a “near-drowning” incident, with the vast majority of these hospitalizations the result of brain injury due to asphyxiation suffered during the drowning incident. The California Department of Developmental Services (DDS), which provides care for California children and adults with major brain injury, reported that as of December 2016, the largest group of clients cared for by DDS were associated with drowning incidents. DDS has more than 755 clients in its care who suffered a drowning incident when they were younger children.

“It is a tragedy that some parents, pool owners and policy makers still believe caregivers can keep young children safe, from reaching the to a pool, solely due to parents’ innate understanding how to prevent drowning,” stresses Kerr, “Parents, babysitters, and caregivers need the help of pool safety barriers to keep kids from unexpectedly accessing the pool unsupervised. It only takes a minute to lose track of an active young child, all parents know this, and without something like multiple levels of a pool fence, cover or alarms, your kids can and will get to the pool, and can drown – silently – within one to two minutes. Mine did, and I live with that every day!”

“It is a painful reality of life that as a parent it is not possible to be with our children 24/7 and able to protect them,” states Julie Lopiccolo, Jasper’s mom, “at times, all parents leave their children to be cared for by a relative, neighbor, or babysitter.  Our regular babysitter was watching our son Jasper, who was an active, smart and curious 21 month old.  Without our permission, she brought him to her home next door, where Jasper accessed a backyard pool and drowned. The babysitter had been instructed not to leave our house, where there was no pool, but did. I believe, that if only

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her pool would have had some warning system or barriers built in our Jasper would be alive and with us today. No matter how responsible of a parent I was, I could not protect Jasper from that unfenced pool because I did not know he was there and the owners of the home, like so many others each and every year, failed to recognize the risk the pool on their property created to the life of a curious child.”

“My son Nicky was lost to a pool drowning when he was just being a typical kid,” says Carol Norman, whose 5 year old son drowned in a neighbor’s pool, “he was playing with neighborhood kids, went into a neighbor’s home, where the door to the pool alarm was disabled, invited to swim by his five year old friend, unsupervised, and drowned. We provide multiple safety barriers when it comes to other things that create risk for our kids, such as cars, medications, food, cross walks, etc., but do not do the same with pools. Parents and pool owners need to have the help of multiple barriers, so they never suffer a loss of their child, like I did.”

To prevent residential pool drowning we need all parents, caregivers and pool owners to understand five things:” stresses Steve Barrow of California Coalition for Children’s Safety and Health, “Here are a few drowning prevention things to know, with the most important one being the reality that all bodies of water come with risk, including pools and other open bodies of water (not in priority order):

  • To prevent drowning parents and caregivers for children should have thought through a drowning prevention strategy before taking a child to the water; such as who will provide active supervision, what the child is allowed to do while at the water, wearing U.S. Coast Guard approved safety life vests when appropriate, who will rescue the child if they get into trouble
  • No young child should be allowed to access a backyard pool unless there is active supervision of a water safe parent or adult, meaning no further than arms length away, while the child is at the pool or in the pool
  • Water safety and swim lessons are essential life skills that all adults and children should have to help prevent drowning
  • At least two pool safety barriers should be in place for all residential pools, such as isolation fencing, pool covers, door and in-water pool alarms, to help parents, caregivers and pool owners prevent a young child from accessing the pool unsupervised.”

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Pools are an important part of California families’ landscape. And, like all types of water, pools can pose a risk of drowning for young children, but drowning is preventable. That is why California’s pool builders have worked hard to join the Drowning Prevention Foundation and many others to support statewide policies that will make sure all of our pools are safe,” States Terry Snow from Independent Pool and Spa Service Association and California Pool and Spa Association, “Water safety and swimming lessons are important life skills we should all have, and for young children we also need to make sure they can never access a pool without the active supervision of a parent or adult. The drowning stories displayed at this press event shows us the hard lessons about drowning, and set the stage for pushing forward statewide policies that will make all pools safe in California.”

 “Childhood drowning is a costly issue for our state’s healthcare system and taxpayers,” stresses Steve Barrow, Program Director CA Coalition for Children’s Safety and Health, drowning prevention legislative sponsor, “according to our state’s EPICenter data between 2003 and 2013 drowning incidents cost $1.6 billion in healthcare costs. The annual medical and wage loss costs of young children drowning incidents is more than $205 million a year in California.

Affected parent, who have lost a child due to pool drowning contact information:

Marcia Kerr, Cody’s mom, mkerr44@gmail.com, 949-300-0394

Nadina Riggsbee, Samira and JJ’s mom, nriggsbee@comcast.net, 707-747-0191

Julie Lopiccolo and Jonathan St. Clair, Jasper’s parents, jonathanmstclair@gmail.com, info@jasperray.org, 714-997-7870

Carol Norman, Nicky’s mom, norman@sandiego.edu, 619-886-0556

Kimberley Hodges, Brandon’s mom, hodges.kimberley@yahoo.com, 951-897-4545

[1] Drowning as the leading cause of death for California’s 1 to 4 year old population is based on data from CA’s Department of Public Health EPICenter data (https://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html)  and Center for Disease Control’s Injury Prevention and WISQARS injury data system (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System) data center

[2] Ibid