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Chairman Tenenbaum's First Splash Pool Safely 2013 Press Event Remarks

May 23, 2013

Good morning everyone. 

To Jesus [Aguirre] and the staff here at Rumsey, thank you so much for allowing us to use this outstanding facility for our event.  Mr. Rumsey would surely be proud of the children who have learned the life skill of swimming at this center.  And, here would be proud of the lifeguards who received their training here.

Congresswoman, thank you for your sustained commitment to addressing the public health crisis of child drownings.  From your work in the Florida state legislature to your work on Capitol Hill, you have passed legislation and secured funding that has resulted in safer pools and saved lives.  I am so pleased that you could join us this morning. 

Suzy [DeFrancis] and Katey [Taylor], your voices are vital to our collective effort to keep children safe in the water.  Having outstanding partners, like the American Red Cross and Abbey’s Hope Foundation, is a key reason why the Pool Safely campaign is making a positive difference.

Our message today is serious and it is urgent.  We are two days away from the traditional start of the summer swim season and the lives of young children are at risk. 

Children younger than 5 and African American and Hispanic children between ages 5 and 14 are at the highest risk.   

We have already lost lives in pools this year, so we must act now to save lives as we approach the peak of the swim season.

Swimming lessons can save a life. 

Installing a fence can save a life. 

Installing new drain covers can save a life. 

And, designating a water watcher can save a life.

Research shows that making physical changes, like adding layers of protection, can create safer pools and prevent drownings. 

But, we also need a generational change. 

Too many parents and grandparents, especially within the African American community, grew up with a fear of the water—a fear that need not be passed on to their children.

I urge all families—no matter where you live—to contact your community swim center, the local YMCA, or any certified swim program and sign up your children for lessons. 

Wanda Butts and The Josh Project are hosting swim lessons in Ohio.

Cullen Jones and his fellow Olympians taught children across New York City how to swim this past weekend.

And, Ys and Boys and Girls Clubs across the country will teach children how to swim this week.

We can do this.  We make this a summer in which children enjoy the water, enjoy a great activity like swimming, and stay alive.

Today’s event marks the launch of the fourth year of CPSC’s Pool Safely campaign, which is aimed at preventing drownings and drain entrapments.  The campaign was started thanks to funding secured by the Congresswoman, and is a critical part of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, which the Congresswoman championed in 2007.

We have made significant progress over the past three years.  Tens of millions of Americans have been touched by the pool safely message that simple steps can save lives. 

While our campaign has created positive changes, sadly, the drowning statistics show that we must do more.

CPSC’s 2013 drowning report, which we are releasing today, finds that an average of 390 children younger than 15 tragically drown every year.  300 of the 390 drownings involve children younger than 5. 

That is a heartbreaking statistic—a heartbreaking statistic that is stubbornly unchanged from our 2012 report.

We are talking about 15 preschool classes lost to pool or spa drownings each year.  This is a national health and safety problem that we must work together to fix.

Another 5,100 children younger than 5 suffer submersion injuries each year.  Sixty percent of injuries occur during June and July.  This is why our message today is so urgent.  

Some of those injuries involve the need for lifelong care, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in medical costs.

Children younger than 5 drown mostly in residential pools.  In fact, 73 percent of all fatalities occur at a residence—the home of the victim, or a neighbor or family member­­. 

We have to make residential pools safer by fencing them all and using other protective barriers.

Additional data from USA Swimming and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that African-American and Hispanic children are the most at risk for drowning from ages 5 to 19.  

According to the CDC, African-American children between 5 and 14 are five times more likely to drown in a pool than white children of the same age. 

And data from USA Swimming indicates that 70 percent of African American children and 62 percent of Hispanic children cannot swim, making them especially vulnerable populations.

This cannot continue.  Everyone, no matter where they live or what their circumstances, should have access to swim lessons.

There is one statistic that I am proud to announce. CPSC’s data once again shows that there have been no deaths involving children being entrapped by the suction of dangerous pool drains since the Pool and Spa Safety Act went into effect.

We want to continue to honor Abigail, Graeme, Zach and so many other children, by keeping this figure at zero every year.

In order to achieve this goal, I must state that any public pool or spa that is not in compliance with this important federal law should NOT be open. 

I want pools to be open. 

I want children to have access to pools, but the law has been in effect for more than four years, so there is no excuse for a public pool owner to not be in compliance.  

In closing, I want everyone to know that the Pool Safely campaign has a simple, but powerful objective: to save the lives by urging parents and children to adopt as many safety steps in and around pools and spas as possible. 

Whether it is staying close to children at all times, learning and practicing life-saving skills like CPR, or ensuring your pool or spa has the right safety equipment, we encourage you to adopt and practice as many water safety steps as possible.

You never know which safety step will save a life—until it does.

Reducing the child drowning rate requires everyone to do their part—to engage in our call to action to pool safely.

* * *

Over in the kiddie pool is a visual representation of the drowning statistics that we have presented today.  There are 390 sets of goggles, one for each of the 390 children who drown each year in pools and spas.

To help bring down this number and keep children safe in and around the water, we are launching new Public Service Announcements today, in English and Spanish.  

We will take one minute to show both of these PSAs.

We hope that millions of families see our broadcast PSAs on TV and our print PSAs on billboards, buses, trains, and in shopping malls.

I would also like to make sure that members of the media and our special guests know that you can follow the Pool Safely campaign all year long on Twitter, on our YouTube channel, and by visiting

We have a lot of free materials that you can order from us and we will deliver them to your community.  I believe that if we work together to spread the “simple steps save lives” message, we can reduce the child drowning rate and ensure that children have fun in the pool this summer.

Debbie, Suzy, and Katey, thank you so much for joining me in launching our First Splash event and kicking off the 2013 Pool Safely campaign.

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