More than 200 people gathered for the 2010 National Drowning Prevention Alliance Symposium last month to learn about drowning prevention and a new VGB education program including a new video to help with compliance.

Held April 26-27 in Pittsburgh, the symposium drew 177 attendees, 30 sponsors and 18 exhibitors. Pre-conference workshops included a Certified Pool & Spa Operator “Fusion” course and a lifeguard training and management course that taught standards of care for the prevention, recognition, and management of drowning and aquatic injuries. The conference also included a breakout session on risk management for aquatic facilities and another on how lifeguard observation methods can improve aquatic safety. 

Speakers included Francesco key note speaker “Frank” A. Pia, Ph.D, owner of Pia Enterprises.com in Larchmont, N.Y who’s also a cognitive psychologist with 42 years experience in drowning accident causation and reconstruction for public and private aquatic agencies; Jack Wagner, Pennsylvania State Auditor General and gubernatorial candidate, who spoke about the importance of having lifeguards at public beaches; Linda Quain, M.D,, of Seattle Children’s Hospital, University of Washington School of Medicine, who spoke about International Guidelines to Prevent Open Water Drowning; and John Malatak, Chief of Program Operations, Boating & Safety Division of the U.S. Coast Guard and former Asst. Director of Health and Safety for the American Red Cross, who delivered Tuesday’s keynote address.

“The best thing about the NDPA is that there is a place at the table for everyone involved in drowning prevention, water safety, or aquatics,” said Kristin Goffman, Executive Director of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance based in Huntington Beach, Calif.

The event also included an early peek at the national public education component (Section 1407) of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (VGB), which mandates suction entrapment prevention measures for all public pools and spas and a public education campaign to raise awareness about child drowning prevention.

“We are serious, we are out there, and we will be talking about drowning prevention,”

Kathleen Reilly, public affairs specialist with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, assured attendees.

The official launch of the Pool Safely campaign is set for May 24 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., when the campaign logo will be unveiled.  “I really like the idea of using the word ‘pool’ as a verb and combining it with the imperative,” said Reilly.

The campaign tagline, “simple steps save lives” summarizes the campaign’s overall strategy—to promote positive, empowering messages that will encourage conversation, idea sharing and motivate desired behavioral changes in target audiences.

Campaign messaging will be built upon two “pillars.” The first shifts the emphasis from problems to solutions by focusing on proactive solutions instead of tragic outcomes and the sharing of best practices. The second encourages “identity-driven behavior change”

by promoting a positive self-image (i.e., responsible parent/industry) rather than criticizing deficiencies.

“We want to cultivate a safety-minded identity by reinforcing what they’re already good at doing so they’ll feel motivated to do even more,” said Reilly. “We also want to plant the seed of doubt that their current safety regimen might not be good enough, and help them understand that there’s always room for improvement.”

The CPSC is also working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to implement VGB Sections 1405 and 1406, which define minimum eligibility requirements for the state grant program. Because about 300 children under five drown in residential pools annually, the state grant program requires that all residential pools have barriers, such as 4-foot high fences, or, when the house serves as the fourth side of a barrier, pool safety covers or pool door alarms.

In addition, to be eligible for a grant, the state legislation must also require that residential pools as well as public pools have entrapment prevention devices. The state grant application deadline date is May 28, 2010.  For more information about the state grant program visit PoolSafety.gov.  A link describing how to apply for the state grant can be found at poolsafety.gov/officials.html. 

To help local officials determine if pool drains are VGB compliant, Reilly said the CPSC will produce a video and distribute it through state health departments. It will show a variety of pool drains and “walk people through a step-by-step inspection process divided into five-minute segments.