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Health department and USF researchers warn of the deadly combination of water and young children

Courtesy of Florida Prevention Research Center at the University of South Florida

Drowning is the second-leading preventable cause of death among young children in Florida.

Drownings are preventable. But already this year, more than 20 young children have perished this way in Florida.

Not all of them lived here.

The state health department has asked the Florida Prevention Research Center at the University of South Florida to analyze an ad it put up at Orlando International Airport, or MCO, to warn tourists of the dangerous mix of standing water and small children.

April Ingram is Deputy Director of FPRC. She said drownings often happen away from “pool time,” for children under five. But even water inside the house presents danger.

“Any type of standing water, like a bathtub, toilet. And then of course, like children, especially toddlers, like to sneak out, like to get out of the house early in the morning. And this has been a really bad time for drownings, unfortunately,” she said.

Her organization is conducting formative research for FDOH, using journey-mapping, focus groups and intercept interviews of tourists passing through MCO, to see how they are responding to the ad.

Ingram said it’s clear that folks with young families, traveling from up north or coming in from Europe or Canada don’t necessarily have drowning prevention at the top of their minds.

Ingram said there isn’t a lot of regulation for those who rent out their homes through VRBO or Airbnb, or the Swimply app.

“So, when you're booking on some of these sites, just like you would select, like a non-smoking, how maybe, you know, could you select like, a pool with a gate? Those types of things are like letting them see other technologies that are available, and there's a lot of new technologies out there to help prevent drowning,” Ingram said.

Technologies like the Wave, Pool Knight
and Josh the Otter apps.

“The study is open right now, if anyone is interested and has small children, and they like to do a lot of traveling, especially to Florida. But we look to see where people are in their process of planning a trip to Florida,” Ingram said.

You can take part in the study by emailing this address: socialmarketing@coph.usf.edu. It is expected to remain open until mid-June.

Ingram said her researchers have discovered that some parents of young children assume that family-focused destinations like Walt Disney World have already put in safeguards against drowning, which may not be the case.

But also, people don’t want to see anything negative when they go on vacation.

I love telling stories about my home state. And I hope they will help you in some way and maybe even lift your spirits.