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Remember the dangers of drowning this holiday weekend

Posted at 8:41 PM, May 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-24 20:41:54-04

As you make your Memorial Day plans, remember that many drownings happen during holiday weekends.

While you might associate drowning dangers with a pool, statistics actually show that's not necessarily the case.

According to a report by Safe Kids Worldwide, more than 1,000 children drowned in the U.S. in 2016, the highest rate of drownings since 2011. Around 43 percent of those deaths happened in waterways such as oceans, lakes, rivers and other open bodies of water.

"This holiday weekend, it is extremely important to keep an eye on your children," said Keri Morrison, who wants to prevent another family from feeling her pain.

She lost her son Jake around Thanksgiving in 2013 -- just two months before his third birthday.

"We were visiting family that lived along the Intracoastal," she said. "Jake snuck out of the home we were visiting and fell into the Intracoastal. And lost his life to drowning."

The tragedy prompted Morrison to create the Live Like Jake Foundation to help raise awareness to the dangers of drowning and to help children learn how to "self-rescue" while swimming.

"These lessons were so important and could've potentially saved Jake's life and we wanted to make sure they were available to everyone," said Morrison.

The special type of swimming lesson is called ISR, or Infant Swimming Resource, and has been implemented around the world for decades. 

"Both of my daughters learned ISR, they are three and four in a half -- and they swim like fish," said Morrison.

The lessons are meant to prevent drownings in open water.

"In some instances, a child will find themselves in the water with no wall to find," said Stacy Van Santen, an ISR swimming instructor. "We teach that child to self-rescue, without the aid of a wall, a bar, or a hand."

Morrison and the ISR instructors she works with showed us how it works, demonstrating with a two-year old student doing a "swim-float-swim" sequence.

"He will roll back and float when he needs to find his air," said Van Santen, as the toddler flipped over and floated on his back. "He will then flip back over and look for [the instructor's] hand but if it's not available, he will go back into his self rescue mode -- and roll back and float."

The lessons can start at six months of age to a year old, where they learn to roll on their back float. 

"The earlier you start them, the better," said Van Santen.

Once the child is walking and has more muscle coordination, they learn how to swim, roll back and float, and flip over and swim again. Lessons go up to six years of age or older.

"And they'll repeat that sequence until they find a wall or a shoreline, or safety," said Van Santen.

To graduate from the ISR program, the child can demonstrate the swimming sequence with clothes on, to simulate a real life situation.

"Summer and winter clothes. Over 88 percent of children that fall in the water do so fully clothed. It's an accident. So that's another reason why we really endorse this program," said Morrison. "Jake fell in fully clothed. He had on pants, shoes and a heavy jacket."

There are about 600 ISR instructors nationwide with at least 30 based here in Palm Beach County. You can go to and type in your zip code to look up an instructor near you.

Live Like Jake -- which is based in North Palm Beach County -- raises money to provide scholarships and grants for families to take ISR lessons.

"To date, we've done over 1,000 scholarships in about three and a half years. So we're really proud of that," said Morrison.

This holiday weekend, instructors suggest taking turns looking after kids while they swim.

"To be the water watcher, for only 10 minutes. Segmented supervision," said Van Santen. "You can't have a cellphone, nobody can talk to you. Your job is to watch the pool and the children."

Also, make sure pool gates and fences are properly latched.

"And please know CPR in case of an emergency so you can get that baby breathing," said Van Santen.

Morrison also has this warning for parents.

"Don't let your guard down, especially if you are visiting another home that has a pool or anywhere near an open body of water," she said.

Here are some more tips, courtesy of the Red Cross:

  • Do your part, be water smart! Ensure that everyone in the family learns to swim well.
  • Adults: actively supervise children; stay within arm’s reach of young children and newer swimmers. And kids: follow the rules.
  • Don’t fool with a pool: fence it in. Enclose your pool and spa with four-sided, four-foot fencing and use self-closing, self-latching gates.
  • Don’t just pack it; wear your U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket – always when on a boat and if in a situation beyond your skill level. Inflatable children’s toys and water wings can be fun, but they are no substitute for a life jacket and adult supervision.
  • Swim as a pair near a lifeguard’s chair - everyone, including experienced swimmers, should swim with a buddy in areas protected by lifeguards.
  • Reach or throw, don't go! Know what to do to help someone in trouble, without endangering yourself; know how and when to call 9-1-1; and know CPR.


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