It’s such a simple, beautiful idea, I was shocked to learn prior to this year, it did not exist. Which perhaps only underscores its urgency.
It’s called “International Water Safety Day.” Think “Earth Day” meets water safety awareness. On May 15th, the first ever Water Safety Day will take place anywhere you want it. Simply get out there, into your community, school, or areas around your pool, and share some water safety tips – with or without actual water.
“It’s about raising awareness and getting everybody a little bit more water safe,” says Shaun Anderson, one of the organizers of the event. “The idea is like Earth Day where they got the message out that there was a problem. If we all do something on the same day, rather than being fragmented, we can really bring the awareness on the global level. Everyone shouting at the same time that there’s a drowning problem on this planet can make a difference. With that, taking the day to educate people how to be safer in and around the water.”
He adds: “And you don’t need to have a drop of water there. You can learn other things, not to dive in shallow water. Little things to make a difference”
If 2011 was known as the year internet networking launched a barrage of movements, 2012 could bring even more awareness to issues not typically discussed in mainstream news media. Like the fact that 30,000 people around the world drown each month. Or the fact that drowning is the third leading cause of accidental death world-wide. Organizers of International Water Safety Day wish that for just one day a year, schools around the nation would make water safety a priority. Just sharing information helps.
“We need to get people out in their schools, talking about water safety,” Anderson says. “We put up 10 water safety tips on the international safety day website. Or come up with your own curriculum. It’s a great opportunity for everyone to plug your programs.”
Because this has never been done before, there is a lot of excitement with the event. Anderson is trying to coordinate aquatics lovers of all arenas – scuba divers to rowers (the U.S. Rowing team has vowed to help) to aerobic classes to swim teams – to take time on May 15th and share water safety tips while raising awareness about their own local swim programs in the area. He’s signed up Olympic gold medalist Anthony Ervin to be the spokesperson for the day. And he’s already seen an outpouring of support.
“There are people participating in Detroit, Austin, DC, Ft. Lauderdale. Philly Area, all those major areas have something going on,” Anderson says. “We’d love for this to really catch on. This is just a day for everyone who loves swimming to share safety tips.”
The Houston Parks and Recreation Department is also on board.
But the real goal is simply to teach water safety tips, such as ‘don’t dive into shallow water’, and raise awareness about the issue.
“In just one day, 99% aren’t going to learn how to swim in one day at a pool. Don’t get me wrong, those days are great, but we can do something at school. Awareness is the first step.”
When Anderson travels the country as part of Diversity In Aquatics, he shares the drowning rates with people, and he says they are astounded. It’s an issue that many of us in the aquatics world sometimes take for granted, since many of us can swim ourselves. Which is exactly why Anderson wants to see all members of the swim community rally around one cause, for just one day. He says we owe it, as aquatics lovers.
“Number one, we have a social responsibility being in these activities to spread the word of water safety. At the same note, we have a chance to tell people,” Anderson says. “In Oklahoma City, 270 people all pledged to tell 100 people about water safety. That’s 27,000 people.”
Looking ahead, it’s easy to see potential ramifications. Imagine turning on the T.V. and seeing news about Water Safety Day, the same way we hear about Earth Day. For just one day, kids could learn something about water safety they didn’t know. Teams could head out into the community or local schools to spread the message or pass information about their own swim programs. And in 5-10 years, you never know.
Marcellus Wiley, a former NFL pro-bowler and current ESPN analyst, once said about starting anything in life, “Imagine you’re NASA trying to go into orbit. They spend 60-70% of their fuel at launch. Which means most of the energy is just starting. Once you get started, you assimilate to the environment, and it’s almost a piece of cake. But you have to get over the anxiety of just starting.” He said that after his 3rd swim lesson, as a 30-something who had a limited swim background.
International Water Safety Day blasts off in two weeks from today. And it’ll be thrilling to see, after this first initial launch, just how far it goes.
“May being water safety month, and pools that are up north, a lot of them open Memorial Day,” Anderson says. “We thought, what better day to hold this event than right before the pool is open? Before the summer pool swing. Let kids learn something really quick before heading to the pools. The timing of this day coincides with that.”
To learn more, go to http://internationalwatersafetyday.org/
From: USA Swimming 5/2/12