FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Drowning is the leading cause of death among children ages 1-4 in Florida and Broward County leads the state in the number of deaths each year.

But there are efforts underway to prevent child drowning.

One of those efforts is the “SPLASH” Water Safety Awareness program, which kicked off in early March in Broward County.

The “SPLASH” Water Safety Awareness program is a partnership between the YMCA of Broward, the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Broward Health Department, Children’s Services Council and numerous agencies and cities.

As part of the program, Broward County and the cities of Pembroke Pines, Hollywood, Weston, Coral Springs, Lauderhill, Miami and Hialeah proclaimed March 12-16 as Water Safety Awareness Week. The YMCA of Broward County offered free beginner swim lessons, drowning prevention techniques and water safety education programs for children ages 3-15 years old.

Rosie Baqui knew she needed to put her son Noah in swim lessons as young as six months old, because he loved the water.

“That was the problem, he likes the water too much. We have a lake in the backyard and I was really scared.” Rosie Baqui said.

Now thanks to swim lessons at the Y, Rosie watches Noah swim confidently in the pool, even though he’s only 2 and a half years old.

The Mayor of Pembroke Pines Frank C. Ortis agreed that parents should teach kids to swim at a young age.

“This way they get all the fears out, children at this age don’t have those fears. That’s a great time to teach them.” Ortis said.

It’s story all too familiar for the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

“Here’s what I always hear, ‘I only left them alone for a second. I turned my back for a second. I just went to get a drink.’ It happens that quick,” said Sheriff Al Lamberti.

At the YMCA, they teach kids survival techniques like floating and boating safety.

BSO officials said even if your kids can swim, you need to keep an eye on them at all times. For every fatal drowning, there are 10 to15 near drownings, according to BSO.

So remember, it’s never too early or too late to learn to swim.

For more swim safety program information in your neighborhood, call Neighbors 4 Neighbors at (305) 597-4404.


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