Military Mom Tweets RE: Child Drowning

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The National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA) responds to the firestorm of negativity that the woman who Tweeted after her son drowned in a pool has faced. The NDPA urges people to shift their focus from criticism to looking at ways that tragic child drownings can be prevented.

Of course she reached out to her community. Who wouldn't under such horrific circumstances?

Whether and what Shellie Ross tweeted before or after her son Bryson drowned should not be the focus of the discussion. Momentary distractions happen to all of us. That's the consensus of representatives of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA), a national non-profit focusing on reducing drowning deaths and injuries.

Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death to children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's why the NDPA and many other child safety organizations urge communities to prevent these tragedies by enacting and enforcing strict swimming pool barrier codes and by educating parents and pool owners to have multiple layers of protection to prevent--or at least delay--a toddler's unsupervised access to a swimming pool or spa.

Child drownings are swift and silent. Studies by the Consumer Products Safety Commission and Safe Kids USA have shown that most child drownings occur during a very brief lapse in supervision--usually while a parent or caregiver is engaged in routine household activities. Nearly eighty percent of drowning victims were missing for five minutes or less, and almost half were last seen in the house.

"Clearly, no one can keep their eyes on a child 24/7," says Kristin Goffman, executive director of the NDPA. "Distractions like cooking, cleaning, showering or using the bathroom are part of every parent's day. Today, time spent at the computer using e-mail, Facebook, blogging or tweeting has also become routine. If you have a pool, it's vital to have child resistant barriers to isolate the pool from the house and from the surrounding yard area. Barriers like isolation fencing buy precious time for busy parents so these inevitable lapses don't result in tragedy.

"Many people have been saddened and outraged by the judgmental firestorm that erupted after Shellie Ross begged her Twitter community for prayers while her son received emergency medical care," Goffman says. "Parents who lose children to drowning are often the target of fierce criticism.

"Of course she reached out to her community. Who wouldn't under such horrific circumstances?" said Goffman. "What Shellie Ross needs and deserves now is compassion, love and support. All of us at NDPA offer her our heartfelt sympathy and hope she will find help in support communities for bereaved parents."

The NDPA recently added an online peer-support group for parents of drowning victims to its own web site (, a blog called JADES (Journey After a Drowning Experience). "Many members of the JADES network also find support through The Compassionate Friends, a national support group for bereaved parents. And of course, grieving parents can benefit from professional counseling," Goffman says.

Typically in the US, over 800 children under age 14 drown each year. Nearly three times as many are treated for submersion injuries with about 20 percent suffering severe, permanent brain damage. The NDPA urges swimming pool and spa owners to protect young children by installing an isolation fence completely around the pool that is at least four feet high and has a self-closing, self-latching gate that opens outward. A power safety cover is another effective barrier if closed every time an adult is not watching the pool or spa. An additional layer of protection is to install alarms on all house doors to alert parents when children try to exit the house unsupervised.

Whenever children are playing in or around water, parents and caregivers are urged to provide constant eye-contact supervision and to know proper rescue procedures, including CPR. Teaching children to swim is an additional layer of protection, swim lessons or flotation devices do not take the place of constant supervision.

The mission of the NDPA is to be a catalyst in drowning prevention by educating parents and professionals on effective drowning prevention measures. The NDPA's current focus is to support research, awareness, and policy changes to reduce the incidence of toddler drowning in swimming pools.

For more information about the National Drowning Prevention Alliance visit

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Kristin Goffman, executive director

Maureen Williams, founding president
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