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Ideas for Drowning Prevention Coalition Projects Targeting Adolescents


Prepared by the Washington State Drowning Prevention Project
Tizzy Bennett, Kathy Williams, Tony Gomez, Mady Murrey,
Roxanne Basford and Tim Bernthal
April 1998

General guidelines for improving programs

  • Work from the data you have from your area
  • Use multilevel interventions (individual, group, peer, school, community etc.)
  • Take a comprehensive view of risks and outcomes
  • Emphasize protective and positive factors
  • Systematic skills training
  • Adult and peer modeling and reinforcement
  • Focus on social norms promoting prevention
  • Work from a solid theoretical and empirical base
  • Keep parents and teens involved
  • Do not rely on information-only programs
  • Use a long-term perspective
  • Don't limit program implementation to the school environment
  • Collaborate with community partners and through your coalitions

Include youth in everything you do

  • Give them control
  • Give them decision making power

Understand Risk Factors

  • Address Perceived vs. Actual
  • Overestimating swimming skills
  • Underestimating water conditions
  • Non use of life jackets
  • Playing wolf
  • Lack of skills or impetus to evaluate a potentially dangerous situation

Work with swim programs

  • Include open water risks and safety issues in swim programs
  • Create learn-to-swim programs specific to pre teens and teens
  • Provide life jackets that fit teens at public pools for loan and for use as part of swim classes

Emphasize use of life jackets

  • Include life jackets for teens as part of marine patrol and other loan programs
  • Promote the use of stylish life jackets in local advertising, media photos, summer fashion shows etc.
  • Encourage life vest use for non-swimmers or poor swimmers
  • Encourage life vest use when swimming across a river or lake
  • Encourage life vest use in small boats
  • Sell life vests at loan sites

Work with the media

  • Ask that the media mention whether a life jacket was worn or not for all drownings and near drownings
  • Increase overall awareness that teen drownings are an issue by working with the media throughout the spring and summer
  • Use any drowning as an opportunity for prevention messages in the news or to visit the school of the victim

Address signage and access

  • Identify and place signage at high risk water sites where drownings have occurred
  • Identify and promote safe and unsafe water sites
  • Support life guarded beaches and promote use of these sites for swimming and water recreation

Emphasize role of alcohol and drug use

  • Increase awareness of risks and outcomes of alcohol and other drug use while swimming or boating.

Highlight adult and teen role models

  • Focus on adults in your efforts. If teens see that adults and their peers never wear life vests, then they won't either. Same issue with drinking around the water.


  • Seattle King County Drowning Prevention Coalition, West Region Drowning Prevention Coalition and the Yakima Valley Drowning Prevention Coalition
  • Smith, GS and Brenner, RA The Changing Risks of Drowning for Adolescents in the US and Effective Control Strategies, Adolescent Medicine, Vol 6(2), June 1995
  • Durlak, JA Successful Prevention Programs for Children and Adolescents, Plenum Press, 1997
  • US Department of Health and Human Services, Developing Effective Health Communication Strategies for High Risk Youth Outside of School
  • Washington State Drowning Prevention Network
    Focus Group Findings
    News Clipping Analysis
    Death Certificate Review
    EMSC Adolescent Drowning Risk and Prevention Grant Application