Between the Waves Podcast
The PLAN, Episode 19
*This is a transcript of the "The PLAN" episode of NASBLA's Podcast, Between the Waves, from April 26, 2021.
Hey, we've got a problem here.
So, what's the plan? What's your plan? What do you plan? What's the plan?
What's the plan?
What's your plan? What's your plan of action?
Plan? What’s the plan? So, what is the plan?
Wait, I have a plan.
I have a plan. I have a plan. That's the plan. I have a plan here.
Oh, no. I have a plan.
This plan is gonna work! Master plan, phase one!
On today's episode, we'll talk about the plan. What plan you ask? Great question. We're going to talk about the National Water Safety Plan. Today we are joined by our guest, Chris Stec. Chris, along with Tizzy Bennett, is leading the National Water Safety Plan working group on life jackets, PFDs and other flotation devices. Join me as I talk with Chris, about the overall plan and about the working group that we're on.
This is Between the Waves, an audio series to discuss the topics important to today’s water safety professional. Here’s your host from the great state of Texas, Cody Jones.
Chris, I appreciate you joining us. I just wanted to give the audience a sense of what the U.S. National Water Safety Action Plan is and really how it came about.
Gotcha. Thanks, Cody. Now, that's a great question. And so several years ago, a range of entities formed a water safety USA. And after a conference in Canada, they realized that the United States actually didn't have a National Water Safety Action Plan. The World Health Organization actually recommends that all countries do, and so this group was formed. And then, fast forward two or three years later, and there are six work groups that are working towards, you know, developing our inaugural US National Water Safety Action Plan.
So interestingly enough, we are one of a few countries that don't have a plan. But in your research, you'd indicated that there are plans out there, there's other countries that have plans. A bit surprising to me. Can you kind of tell us about those other countries that actually have plans?
Right, yeah. And so as part of kind of our environmental scan, you know, we were looking at things domestically and internationally in regards to life jacket wear and just water safety in general. And if I'm not mistaken, there's six other countries that have a national plan: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the Philippines. And when we reviewed all of those plans, a large percentage of them deal with, you know, water safety around swimming in pools and things like that. Most of them had maybe one or two lines about boating and life jacket wear. So in these other countries, it wasn't at the forefront. Whereas here in the United States, the life jacket component is one of our six core groups that's developing the plan. So that was really interesting to see which countries had them and which countries didn't have plans.
I wouldn't think a lot of those countries would be on my list for having a plan, but that's impressive to me that they've had the foresight to go that route. You brought up the sixth groups and, you know, I use this term that Dana Gage uses often is - all water is connected. And you know, some of the plans you talked about were very focused on swimming and pools and those kind of things. But the United States plan is intending on being kind of all water inclusive, and has multiple groups to it. Can you kind of flesh out those different groups and the approach that's being taken on the water safety plan itself?
Yeah, sure. Of course, Cody. Our team, we have six different working groups. One is supervision and lifeguards. Rescue CPR is a second. Water Safety and water competence, like swimming lessons is a third work group. Barriers, entrapment and electrocution is the fourth. Life jackets, PFDs and other flotation devices is the group that obviously you and I are working on. And then the final group is data and public health surveillance. And so each of these work groups is composed of anywhere between six to 15 subject matter experts that kind of have a pretty diverse cross section of their respective fields. And they've been working since last July. As individual groups, they've conducted a wide ranging environmental scan of the literature. Everything that these groups have to do needs to be as much data driven as possible.
So we're trying to take out, you know, some of our own personal biases. And we are looking for, you know, data-related solutions. So all of these groups have already conducted environmental scan, going through a gap analysis, a SWOT analysis. And right now, each group is starting kind of the outreach to let as many other people and other related groups in kind of their sphere, know about this national plan. Because over the course of probably May, through August, all of these groups will then begin to formulate the recommendations, that will then be submitted to a blue ribbon panel, who will work with the advisory group and kind of formalize the plan. And so kind of as this, in this outreach phase, we're trying to get as much information out to people as possible, just so that they know, hey, this plan is happening. So that when these workgroups make their initial recommendations, people will be able to comment on them and have input.
It's a great opportunity and a great reminder to the listeners that, you know, there is an opportunity to weigh in, and that this plan is being developed. And it will be a great segue to bring communities together, but it needs input. It needs their input and their buy in. So let's kind of delve into the working group that that you and I and many others are on that are part of this community, and that is the life jackets, PFDs and other flotation device working group and kind of talk about, you know, what we've seen, and where we're headed, you know, kind of the breakdown of the different water types that we're focusing on. And kind of what we're looking at from a data-driven perspective, and then kind of where we're headed right now.
So our working group, the life jacket, PFDs and other flotation devices, we have 15 members that come from, like I mentioned earlier, a pretty wide range of backgrounds. You know, from someone like yourself, Cody to we have a pediatrician on the team who deals with getting recommendations into early childhood care for doctors to give out across the country. So there's a range of kind of new approaches that we're taking.
From the 10,000 foot view, our work group can be with the life jacket piece can be thought of as you know, boating, and then non-boating. And so we are not just thinking about life jackets and boats, it's also for waders, swimmers, that type of thing as well, we've put probably equally amount of time and energy into kind of both of those, you know, kind of subgroups. But kind of how we've classified, you know, our water environment for our group is boating and floating, as one. We've talked about controlled water, like kind of designated swim areas, controlled water like pools, water parks, that type of thing. And then kind of a turn we've kind of coined a little bit is uncontrolled open water, meaning there's no signage, there's no lifeguard on duty, it could be a section of river, it could be a large lake, it could be a, you know, a foreign pond. So the idea of boating and floating, controlled water that has some type of signage, and or supervision. And then of course, water with neither supervision nor signage is kind of how we've divided it up.
And then additionally to those environments, we've kind of divided our working group up to focus in five different areas. One area, mandatory wear and enforcement. Second area is technology, design and engineering. A third area of focus for us is education and training. Fourth is communications and media, you know, how do we continue to get this word out there. And then the fifth focus area was access. So, four water environments, five focus areas, and trying to, you know, do data research and environmental scan for all of that has been a pretty significant undertaking over these last nine or 10 months.
I've heard you say it before, and I think the whole working group would agree, that at the end of the day, if you knew how much work you were going to be taking on, you may have rethought the project and your volunteer opportunities. But I mean, it's yeoman's work at the end of the day, and we're all happy to do it. But we know at the end of the day, we're going to be putting out recommendations and we understand that not everybody is going to be favorable to those recommendations, but we aren't doing this based on opinion, right? So, yeah, we're doing this based on science. So is there anything that you would like to convey that would really get to the sense of, you know, how we plan on putting out these recommendations? What our approach has been? That takes that bias out of it? And what our hopes are for these recommendations moving forward once the plan is out and rolling?
Yeah. So with the recommendations, as you mentioned, I guess I've said as well, you were trying to make things as data-driven as possible, you know, to the idea of being for this whole plan is, we want to have a water safety conscious, you know, city, county, state and nation. So there will be kind of recommendations on, hey, what can your local town do in order to improve, you know, water safety, all the way up to the, what should the state be thinking, and then also kind of at a national level. And, you know, we've looked at everything from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers life jacket wear studies from the lakes of Mississippi, to what a local town in Provo, Utah has done in regards to mandating live jacket wear on a certain section of river. To, what several states have done in regards to their cold weather, mandatory wear laws.
At the same time, we have been trying to take a wide approach as well. And I know this is, you know, somewhat controversial, but you know, there are non-approved flotation devices that are out there. And this group is looking at, okay, for a swimmer, someone who, you know, traditionally would not wear a normally, you know, an inherently buoyant life jacket for swimming, would one of the little wrist flotation aids, you know, would that be worth recommending? And so we're still trying to figure out, you know, some of those aspects. Another thing that has been a challenge in regards to when are life jackets appropriate in swim lessons, and there's more than two sides to that coin. And so we're trying to figure out, what would be an appropriate recommendation for, you know, those who educate with swim lessons on when to advise people about life jackets, how does that integrate in. And at the same time, not take away from, you know, an individual's ability to learn to swim. And so, some things might seem a little straightforward, but most, you know, have multiple sides that we're trying to figure out how we can make these recommendations, so towns, organizations, states, governing bodies can, you know, effectively enact them? Because the ultimate goal, you know, is to save lives.
Certainly is, and, you know, I've said it before on a previous podcast, for those that listen to this podcast, is when I was talking about our R3 plans and conservation organizations. And we need to go beyond our approach of getting boaters out there, but getting people comfortable around the water, and you know, swim lessons are a key part of that. And life jacket use is a key part of that. And so how you integrate those things into your R3 plan is important in really engaging a community to become future boaters, and future outdoor recreators. So I appreciate that, Chris. For the listening audience, is there anything else that you want to convey about the National Water Safety Plan about life jacket focus group and other flotation devices? Or in general how to get involved as we move forward in this process? You know, we talked about it, but we want to hear from them. So how would they get involved?
Yeah, so Cody, the key thing is that the last thing any of us want after putting all this time and energy is for this to be you know, a document collecting dust on a shelf. And so folks in our listening audience, once this plan comes out, we want it to be a tool to help maybe, you know, guide you or your departments or your organizations, you know, how to make the United States even safer around the water and so, we really, really need your input. And I guess two ways that you can get involved: one, if you go to watersafetyusa.org/NWSAP for National Water Safety Action Plan, you can sign up to receive information and provide feedback that way, or you can email Cody and I directly at email@example.com. Once again, firstname.lastname@example.org. We are days away from sending our first survey out to get feedback. And so if you're interested, please let us know. And we'll make sure that you have that opportunity to comment on it as well. And then you'll also get updates when the recommendations, you know, draft one comes out, and so forth.
Thanks again, Chris, for joining us today. And thanks for the insight, and your work over the years and in water safety in general, and your work in paddling safety and boating safety. You know folks, it's great opportunity to engage in the community as a whole, you got to understand that these plans are coming out and that there's going to be cities that are going to want to take action on them, there's going to be counties in your area that want to take action on them. There's going to be state legislators and others that may be coming to you and asking you about taking action on them. We take Model Acts all the time, and roll them out into good policy, good practice. And it's an opportunity for you to have something at your fingertips for the future. And so it's your chance to get involved, to get engaged and to know what's coming. And so I would encourage you to do so, and encourage you to give us the feedback and encourage you to, once the plan is out there, to help folks implement it. It will save lives. There's no doubt. Chris, I can't thank you enough for your time today.
My pleasure, Cody. It's always good to work with you, my friend.
Until next time everybody, stay safe and get involved.
I love it when a plan comes together.
This will be a plan where you can choose your plan. And you know what the plan is. This is the plan.
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