BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It only takes a few seconds for a fun pool party to turn tragic, but there's a new way to keep kids safe. 'Water Watcher' tags are now available in Baton Rouge through a drowning prevention program sponsored by Our Lady of the Lake Children's Hospital and Crawfish Aquatics.
The tag is worn on a lanyard by an adult designated to constantly watch children in or near water.
"This Water Watcher tag is a visual reminder that you are responsible for watching children, and if do you want to step out or go to the restroom or get some food, just hand it to the next person," said Kelechi Iheagwara, M.D., a pediatric critical care doctor at the Lake.
She sees about five or six drowning cases every summer, and the outcomes are often devastating. Drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 5, and it often happens in backyard pools while adults are home.
Louisiana is among the top 10 drowning states in the country.
"There's people everywhere and kids still drown. It is a silent death, and it's rapid, and it's often unwitnessed," Iheagwara said.
Crawfish Aquatics instructor Shelly Johnston said a typical drowning is not what most people picture.
"You think of it as a child that is splashing around the water and screaming for help. That's not always what it looks like. A lot of times you can actually be watching the pool and have a child just slip in the pool on the other side, and it's completely silent," she said. "You don't know that the child is struggling underneath the water not able to get up for a breath of air, and you never hear it at all."
The designated Water Watcher should be able to swim. The tag comes with a pledge to always be alert and to have emergency supplies and information on standby.
Johnston said you can also take it a step further.
"It is worth the extra $10 - $12 an hour that you can spend when you have a function to have a designated lifeguard at your party so you know that all the children are safe," she added.
Drowning is 100 percent preventable. The tag itself won't save a life, but the person wearing it certainly can.
Here's where you can pick up your free Water Watcher tag: