EDINA, MINN. – April 12, 2012 – Due to an unprecedented number of drownings in the past year in Hennepin County, a new safety coalition coordinated by Abbey’s Hope Charitable Foundation and North Memorial Hospital is holding several events to create awareness about water safety. The first event will take place in Brooklyn Park.

When:             Saturday, April 14

Time:              11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where:           Huntington Place Apartments – Pool Area

                       5805 73rd Ave. N.

         Brooklyn Park

Who:              Twin Cities Metro Water Safety Task Force

In Hennepin County, 19 people lost their lives in the water while another 21 nearly drowned in 2011. This disturbing trend highlighted the need for increased attention to water safety, and the task force was formed in response to this need.

While the focus of water safety efforts are often associated with traditional recreation venues such as lakes and rivers, the initial goal of the task force is to educate residents living in apartment complexes, where a number of high-profile drownings occurred last summer.

“Many people don’t recognize the signs of drowning until it’s too late,” says Alison Pence, injury prevention program coordinator at North Memorial. “Our focus will be to demonstrate what drowning really looks like and the steps that should be taken.”

There are several reasons why apartment complex pools are a common location for drownings. People using pools often do not know how to swim or can’t swim well. This is exacerbated by the fact that most pools do not have lifeguards. Pools may also be open when apartment offices are closed, making it more challenging to arrange for help.

A lack of education about general pool safety also plays a key role. For instance, the hidden risks inherent in pool drains and other suction equipment is one that will be addressed at the events. “It is crucial that we educate all swimmers, but particularly children, about staying away from drains and other suction outlets while in a pool.” says Katey Taylor, Co-founder of Abbey’s Hope Charitable Foundation. Taylor knows about these dangers first-hand. Her 6-year old daughter Abbey lost her life in 2008 as a result of a drain entrapment incident at a public swimming pool. “Abbey’s hope is proud to work with North Memorial and the other coalition partners to educate Hennepin County residents about the dangers of drowning and entrapment. With the alarming increase in water-related injuries and fatalities in our community, it is clear there is a real need for this program.”                                 

To increase education about drowning, the coalition will be sponsoring three, two-hour water safety events. They will include a video prepared by the City of Brooklyn Park (shown in six foreign languages), a pre-test to determine existing water safety knowledge, a demonstration of drowning and rescue by the Foss Swim School, and a post-test. Apartment management will also be asked to show the video to new tenants and the task force will provide large, pictorial posters of how to recognize and respond to drownings prepared by the City of Plymouth.

The first water safety events are scheduled to take place in apartment complexes in Brooklyn Park (April 14), Brooklyn Center (April 19) and Plymouth (April 28). The task force selected one apartment complex in each of the participating cities to serve as a pilot for this initiative.

The apartment complex-focused nature of the water safety program is a first.

The Twin Cities Metro Water Safety Task Force is a public-private partnership consisting of ten partners: Abbey's Hope Foundation, Brooklyn Center Police, Brooklyn Park Police Department, Foss Swim School, Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, North Memorial, Plymouth Fire Department, Safe Kids Northwest Metro Minneapolis and Swimmunity. Each agency or business is contributing personnel, resources and expertise. The partnership allows for shared costs and increases the outreach that is possible. In addition, other local businesses have generously donated items and services to bring this event to the community.

The Dragonfly Story

Excerpted from the eulogy at Abbey Taylor's Celebration of Life Service

Below the surface of a quiet pond lived a colony of water bugs. They were happy, living far from the sun. But they noticed that occasionally, a member of their colony would climb up a lily stalk and disappear from sight, never to return. Where do you suppose she went? wondered a water bug.

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Pool Safety Tips

  • Use the Water Watchdog System to make sure children are always closely supervised in the pool area.

  • Remind kids to stay away from pool and hot tub drains.

  • Never dive into water less than 9 feet deep.

  • Keep gates to the pool area latched.

More water safety tips