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Petitioning Texas State House, Texas State Senate

Petition in Support of Mandatory Drowning Risk Recognition Training for Texas Lifeguards.
The goal of this petition is to urge our representatives to enact legislation in Texas that requires all licensed lifeguards working at any water facility in Texas to attend an annual training seminar which educates them to recognize when a person in the water is in trouble or drowning and to fully recognize and understand the stages of drowning.

Unlike movie or television depictions, drowning can be a silent killer. As the initial sponsor of this petition, I know this only too well. On July 18, 2007, my 4 ½ year old son was attending an upscale day camp in our neighborhood which appeared to be conscientious about water safety. The camp was well staffed with lifeguards on duty and a counselor-to-camper ratio of almost 1 to 2. When I dropped him off that fateful day, I never thought it would be the last time I would see him wave goodbye to me. But it was. With all the staff and all the amenities the camp had to offer, my son John silently drowned and died in the pool.

As a former lifeguard myself, my initial search for a cause fixated on the lifeguards – mostly teenagers themselves. But, since the loss of my son, I have given presentations to hundreds of lifeguards and from their feedback I have determined that the fundamental problem is that well intentioned lifeguards are not being trained on the most important skill required for them to save lives – adequate recognition of when a person in the water is in need of help. During my talks with lifeguards, I ask them to raise their hands if they believe that they would immediately recognize a person in trouble in the water or if they believe they have been adequately trained on how to spot a person in need of help.” Not one hand has ever been raised — not one!

This is why my son died in a pool in the presence of lifeguards, counselors and even adult patrons. No one present at the pool recognized that John was in trouble, was in distress or was drowning. They were unable to recognize any of the stages of drowning. Only when he was floating lifeless on top of the water was action taken.

My story, while tragic, is not uncommon. We all feel a sense of security when a lifeguard is on duty. But without the vital training of drowning risk recognition, the lifeguard may miss the early signs of trouble and even miss the drowning incident entirely. Without enacting this legislation, children and adults will continue to die or suffer brain damage in lifeguard protected bodies of water throughout the State of Texas.

Texas must require that the proposed training be provided to every lifeguard every year before they assume their duties. Their employers must be required to teach and train their lifeguards to recognize the risks and stages of drowning. Upon completion of the mandatory course, a certificate will be provided to the lifeguard who will post it along with other required certificates from the State of Texas in accordance with the following guidelines:

1. A picture of the staff member with first name only
2. A copy of a current Lifeguarding Certification*
3. A copy of a current CPR for the Professional Rescuer Certification*
4. A copy of current First Aid Certification*
5. A copy of current Training on Recognition of a Distressed/Drowning Person Certification[1]*

As Texans, we the undersigned support this petition and will urge our representatives to enact legislation to require risk recognition training for lifeguards in Texas. We should not wait for another legislative session for a bill requiring this life-saving training to be adopted. If we do, more lives will be needlessly lost. The time for Texas to act is now.

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