A tale of two park agencies: The role of local and regional government agencies in drowning prevention

TitleA tale of two park agencies: The role of local and regional government agencies in drowning prevention
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsDr. Quan, MD, L, Bennett, E
Conference NameWorld Conference on Drowning Prevention
Date Published09/2007
PublisherInternational Life Saving Federation
Conference LocationPorto, Portugal
Other NumbersPO-08

Drowning deaths in Washington’s State Parks were reviewed by a committee convened by by the state’s risk management office.

Death reviews included prehospital care systems, drowning prevention specialists, state health department. To build infrastructure and support for drowning prevention changes, we worked extensively with local and state government agencies and legislators.

An average of six people annually, mostly adults less than 30 years old of ethnic or racial minorities, drowned while swimming in unlifeguarded open waters. Factors that contributed to these drownings included a)systemic issues (lack of a surveillance system, lack of an injury prevention culture across the agency, priorities/funding of the boating program vs the state parks program, termination of life guards at beaches), fiscal decision-making, b)physical hazards in park waters, and c)demographic changes among park visitors. We contrast the State Parks’ drownings, prevention approach, and partnership with that of Seattle City Parks (< 1 drowning death in 5 years) and the State Boating agency.

Recommendations to change the approach and structure of State Parks included adding risk management, incident collection and review, drowning prevention education of park rangers and visitors, promotion of life jacket loan programs, and restoration of lifeguards. Overview of state agencies identified opportunies for drowning prevention.

Learning Outcomes
  1. List at least two ways that government agencies can strengthen their approach to drowning prevention.
  2. Identify the benefits of private public partnerships in pursuing system changes at a government level.
  3. Understand the importance of working at a cross department level to implement change in a government organization.

Loss Prevention Review Team. Drowning Prevention Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. Report to the Director of Office of Financial Management. November, 2005. http://www.ofm.wa.gov/rmd/lprt/parksfinalrpt.pdf