Governor Deval Patrick today joined family members, advocates and legislators to sign S. 2075, "An Act Improving Water Safety for Children in the Commonwealth." Also known as "Christian's Bill," the legislation will improve water safety to decrease the risk of drowning for children at camps and recreational programs.
"This legislation ensures the safety of our children by matching individual swimming ability to the right swimming area," said Governor Patrick. "This will help reduce risks for young children so they can take full advantage of the many outdoor recreational areas available to them in the Commonwealth."
Filed after the tragic and untimely death of Christian Frechette, a 4 year old boy from Sturbridge who drowned at summer camp in 2007 while swimming in a lake without a life jacket, the new law prohibits municipal and recreational programs or camps for minor children from barring a parent, guardian or person with custody of a minor from providing a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device. This provision is unique nationally in empowering parents to ensure personal protection for their children.
"We have been working on getting this law passed for a long time and I am very proud and very happy that it has been signed into law," said Senator Stephen M. Brewer, the sponsor of the bill. "One child drowns every minute across the globe making drowning the second leading cause of death of children under the age of 5. This bill will ensure that at-risk swimmers are identified and that proper precautions are taken to decrease drowning and ultimately save lives."
"This law adds a level of safety measures for children who enjoy water activities," said Representative Todd Smola. "The memory of Christian Frechette will live on through this initiative. The Frechette family along with many volunteers and advocates worked tirelessly to make this law a reality. Governor Patrick has been a wonderful advocate, and it is a proud moment to see him sign this bill."
"We know that drowning is the leading cause of injury death for children ages 1 to 4 in Massachusetts," said Department of Public Health (DPH) Commissioner John Auerbach. "This law will further safeguard our young children and give parents and caregivers greater peace of mind while their children are at camp."
"I truly want to thank the Massachusetts lawmakers, specifically Senator Brewer, Representative Smola and Governor Deval Patrick, for making life safer for children of the Commonwealth with the signing of Christian's Law. Today Massachusetts, tomorrow the nation," said Derek Frechette, Christian's father.
This legislation will improve the water safety of children by requiring that camps and recreational programs must:
Determine each child's swimming ability, at the first swimming session, in order to identify and classify non-swimmers and at-risk swimmers;
Confine children to swimming areas within the limits of their assessed swimming skills;
Adhere to DPH-promulgated regulations, establishing a system to have Coast Guard approved Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs) for minors designated as non-swimmers or at-risk swimmers; and
Allow programs to require parents, guardians and custodians to provide PFDs for their minor children.
The bill also requires that each Amphibious Landing Vehicle, such as the popular duck tour boats in Boston, have a Personal Flotation Device for every child passenger under the age of 10.