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June 17, 2019

Houston Health Department, Judah Brown Project Partnering To Help Prevent Childhood Drownings

The Houston Health Department is partnering with the Judah Brown Project to raise awareness about the risk of childhood drowning, educate parents and caregivers about reducing the risk, and link people to additional resources.

Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death for children ages 1-4.

“The health department is fortunate to have tens of thousands of monthly interactions with parents and caregivers through programs like WIC, nurse-family partnership and aging,” said Stephen L. Williams, director of the Houston Health Department. “We hope our valuable partnership with the Judah Brown Project provides information and resources to help save parents the unbearable heartache of losing a child to drowning.”

The Judah Brown Project, a non-profit organization that offers survival swim instruction, CPR certification and other lifesaving education to families of children ages 1-4, is providing drowning prevention resources for the health department to offer parents and caregivers. Annette Isabella, Judah’s preschool teacher, established the charity following the 3-year-old’s drowning death. Judah’s parents, Christi and Mark Brown, then partnered with Annette.

“Most of the time parents of children who drown are not outright negligent; they simply have a false sense of security regarding their child and water,” Mark said. “For example, parents need to understand that traditional swimming lessons do not provide children under four the skills to save themselves from drowning. That ability comes from survival swim lessons.”

No child is “drown proof.” However, you can significantly reduce the risk by using the following layers of protection:

  • Designate a “water watcher.” This adult is responsible for keeping their eyes on all children in the water and should be free of all distractions — including cell phones and socializing. The “water watcher” should be switched every 15 minutes to avoid attention fatigue.
  • Teach children to swim. Survival swimming lessons teach children self-rescue techniques to help prevent water accident deaths. Traditional swimming lessons teach children proper swimming strokes.
  • Learn CPR. Become certified in CPR and update your skills annually. It could save the life of your child or another person.
  • Have proper barriers. Ensure the fence around your pool is at least five feet tall with a self-closing and self-latching gate. Make sure doors and windows to the pool are always locked and alarmed. Install a pool alarm to alert you when anyone goes into the water.

Information about free and low-cost swimming lessons, organizations that offer swim lesson scholarships and more water safety resources is available at

Concerns about the safety of pools in Houston can be reported to Houston Health Department pool inspectors by calling 311.