Fort Worth, Texas,
08:53 PM

The life-saving reasons for Water Watchers

5 seldom used tips that could save your child's life

The 100 degree temperatures in Texas means pool season doesn’t end with kids going back to school. It also means the chance for tragedies in those pools continue.

Midway through the month of August, Cook Children’s saw two drowning deaths come through its doors. That means that we must continue to watch our kids at the pool. Their life may depend on it.

So what does it mean to watch your kids or be a “Water Watcher?”

Leslie Zvitt is the manager of Web applications at Cook Children's and the mother of two children, ages 8 and 5 years old.

She became a  Water Watcher during pool parties last year. Watcher Watcher means adults take turns supervising the pool with undistracted attention.  

"Our kids love to invite friends over for swim parties, and often times it is a relief to us as parents for the kids to occupy themselves with their friends, while the adults visit and have grown-up discussions," Zvitt said. "However, we still have a very real responsibility to keep them safe from harm; after all, a pool is no substitute for a babysitter. Since I found out about Water Watcher’s, I’ve been applying some simple guidelines for our pool parties that are really easy to follow, and make all of us safer as a result."

Zvitt's Water Watcher program consists of a few simple steps we can all follow to protect our kids lives:

  1. Create a sign-up sheet. Use a plain sheet of paper or draft a document on your computer, and create a two- column table. In the first column, write down the timeslots that will cover the duration of your party. Label the second column “Water Watcher,” where the volunteers will write down their names for the timeslot they choose. Zvitt uses Signup Genius, a free online site that allows you to set up a signup sheet in advance. You can choose timeslots at intervals for each of your attendees to sign up for, and you can either send your invite list an email, or copy the link into a Facebook event or other invitation format.
  2. Enlist the help of other parents.Tell other parents about the Water Watcher concept at the very beginning of the party.  Encourage them to volunteer for a shift, whether it’s 10 or 15 minutes or longer, depending on the length of your party and the number of adults available. Have them write their name into one of the rows on your sign-up sheet.  Inform them that during their shift, they are to wear the Water Watcher card around their wrist to indicate that they are the main parent in charge of watching over the kids. This is an important responsibility and that parent should be focused on his or her job. But, this doesn’t mean other parents aren’t able to help. The more that can help, the better off, and safer, everyone will be.
  3. Set a recurring alarm. One of Zvitt's must-haves at any pool party is music!  Stationed on her patio is a docking station for iPhones which we use to either stream Pandora stations or  iTunes music; but setting a recurring alarm will interrupt the music with whatever sound you’ve set up to alert you to the shift change. There are free interval timer apps available for various mobile devices.  You can set up intervals of any length (i.e. 15 minutes). At the end of each interval the music is interrrupted with an alarm sound of your choice, signifying the next Water Watcher rotation. But you don’t have to get fancy. You can simply use the built-in alarm function set on your phone for each interval you plan on changing shifts. 
  4. Make sure the adults know they will be involved at your party. It takes two seconds for a drowning to occur, so it is imperative that this responsibility is taken seriously so that all our kids stay out of harm’s way! "Many times, the parents I talk to about being a Water Watcher nod and agree, but then put a comment out there like, 'Well, my spouse will be there and will probably be watching the pool the whole time' or 'there will be plenty of parents there watching,'" Zvitt said. "I have to be mindful of how I phrase my response to not sound rude, but I kindly inform them that when 'everyone's watching,' NO ONE is watching." The adult in charge has to make the decision to focus on all the kids, rather than socialize.
  5. Did we mention it's the adults watching the kids in the pool? The Water Watcher job is one for a grownup. They are expected to stay sober and focused during their 15 minute shift or if they are the only one out there, to stay alert the whole time. This isn't a job for kids, even older children. "Teens can be easily distracted and they may not have the judgement skills to handle the job," said Dana Walraven,Community Health Outreach manager at Cook Children’s and Safe Kids Tarrant County Coordinator. "If there's a problem in the pool, a child may have trouble getting a another child out of the pool. And this is not a responsiblity for a young person. A drowning, even if not fatal, could could scar a child for life if something happened if he or she were in charge. This is definitely a job for a grownup."
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