Very few of Utah's young accidental drowning victims are "unsupervised," according to Janet Brooks, child advocacy manager for Primary Children's Medical Center. But those responsible for them get distracted.

That's why a water-safety/drowning awareness campaign at the hospital has adopted the slogan, "Don't just be there, be aware."

The Memorial Day weekend traditionally kicks off an increase in outdoor recreation, and that brings with it increased risk of injury or death. Drowning is the second-leading cause of injury death in Utah children under age 15, according to Bonnie Midget, hospital spokeswoman.

Brooks said drownings fall into two categories: "Those who don't make it, and those who sustain life-altering injuries. With water, that happens to be brain injuries. If there's one message we want to get out, it's supervision. Almost all these incidents occur when somebody's close by and supposedly watching the child. Time slips away; we forget what we're doing."

The youngest children are more likely to drown in a friend's or their family's pool. Community and neighborhood pools are also a risk. Older kids tend to drown in bodies of water like lakes, often because they think they can swim better than they can and they do not make it back to shore, Brooks said.

The campaign is called "Danger at Any Depth" and is designed to remind adults to watch children around any water. A person can drown in very shallow water.

Brooks and others offer safety tips. For instance, research has shown that about 62 percent of children 14 and under who drowned in 2004 were not wearing life jackets or personal flotation devices. An estimated 85 percent of deaths in boating-related incidents were preventable had the jackets or devices been in use.

If a child is missing, Primary's tip sheet says to check water or the pool first. And even if children know how to swim, they need supervision.

More tips are available online, where Primary's water safety program information can be found at www.primarychildrens.org. The Utah Department of Health has information available at health.utah.gov.


E-mail: lois@desnews.com