View logo

Choose your View

Coalition gaining its sea legs to prevent drowning

Since its inception in 2011, the Southern Nevada Child Drowning Prevention Coalition has helped to reduce drowning incidents by about half.

In 2010, Clark County's number of child submersion incidents, a term used to describe both fatal and non-fatal incidents of drowning, was 41 for children up to 14 years . That number is 21 so far in 2012, as of June 14.

But County Commissioner Susan Brager, who sits on the coalition's board of directors, says the county is still a long way from zero.

"We want to bring about a better visibility within the community," Brager said. "It will take two to four years to really make an impact."

Brager added that incidents of drowning are preventable. The coalition preaches the "A, B, C & D's of drowning prevention." The letters stand for adult supervision, barriers around pools, classes on swimming and CPR, and personal flotation devices.

The coalition routinely hands out pamphlets and posters explaining the A, B, C & D's and Water Watcher Cards for use during social gatherings to denote who is responsible for supervising the pool.

"We try to educate every member of the community," Brager said. "There are no boundaries (as) to whom and when drownings happen. Everyone is affected."

The coalition's effectiveness is due to its efforts in uniting various facets of the community, according to Mike Bernstein, a member of the board of directors as well as the health educator for Southern Nevada Health District.

"Since the formation of the coalition, there's been a much more coordinated effort in the community," Bernstein said. "We've brought in everyone promoting water safety so we can deliver a united message, instead of having different groups competing for space."

One such partnership is with Paragon Pools, which co-sponsors free annual swim lessons at the Bill & Lillie Heinrich YMCA, 4141 Meadows Lane, called Float Like A Duck. This year's event, held on May 26, had about 300 attendees.

"It's an obligation for me to do what I can to help prevent such tragedies," said Joe Vassallo Sr., president and owner of Paragon Pools, who also serves as one of the coalition's directors-at-large. "We're trying to bring awareness of the things people need to be cognizant of when supervising children."

The coalition also is attempting to reach out to the Hispanic community by producing Spanish-language public service announcements about drowning prevention.

Roughly half of submersion incidents reported involved Hispanics, according to Bernstein.

"We're seeing a larger group of representatives from the Hispanic community at our meetings," Bernstein said. "We hope to continue working together with increased participation from the Hispanic community."

The next big step for the coalition is being granted 501(c)(3) status, Brager said. Its application was submitted in June and could take months to process.

"This is a big stepping stone," Brager said about the coalition's potential nonprofit status. "Without money, (our goal) is very difficult."

The coalition meets at 4:30 p.m. the last Thursday of every month at the Clark County Government Center, 500 S. Grand Central Parkway .

For more information, visit, email or call 483-8215.

Contact Southwest/Spring Valley View reporter Nolan Lister at or 383-0492.