Water Safety First

A group of people pose for a picture. They are holding children's books.

Contribution from Amy Haile, CFC Chief Operating Officer

As the temperatures rise, the allure of pools, lakes, and beaches becomes irresistible. However, it’s crucial to remember that for children under the age of five, water poses a significant danger. Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children ages 1-4 and the second leading cause for those up to 14. Pause and reflect—drowning is one of the leading causes of children dying, and it is entirely preventable. In the past ten years, 79 children have died because of drowning in Tampa Bay. Since January we have experienced two more child deaths.

Things to Know:

  • Silent and Swift: Drowning is often silent and can happen within just 20-60 seconds.
  • Presence of Adults: 88% of child drownings happen with at least one adult present, and nearly 70% of toddler drownings occur during non-swim times, such as in the bath.
  • Non-Fatal Incidents: For every fatal drowning, another 7 to 8 children receive emergency care for non-fatal drownings, potentially facing lifelong complications.
  • Minimal Water Depth: Children can drown in as little as 2 inches of water and within 20 seconds.

Tips for Preventing Drowning:

1. Supervision:

Close, Attentive Supervision: Ensure close, attentive supervision when children are near water, including pools, bathtubs, and even buckets.

Assign a Water Watcher: Designate an adult to keep an eye on children in or near water without distractions.

2. Home Safety:

Empty Containers Immediately: Empty buckets, tubs, and other containers immediately after use.

Use Toilet Locks: Prevent young children from accessing the bathroom unsupervised.

Install a Pool Fence: A four-sided fence with self-closing, self-latching gates is crucial. Ensure the fence is at least 4 feet high and climb-proof.

Child-Proof Doors and Windows: Prevent children from wandering outside unsupervised.

Use Pool Alarms: Install alarms to alert you if someone falls into the water.

Search Water First: If a child is missing, always search any nearby bodies of water first. The first few minutes after a drowning are crucial.

3. Swim Lessons:

  • While swim lessons can reduce drowning risk, they do not replace the need for vigilant supervision. Ensure programs teach children how to get out of the water if they end up in it unexpectedly.
  • Constant Touch Supervision: When infants or toddlers are in or around water, an adult with swimming skills should always stay within an arm’s length, providing constant “touch supervision.”

Water safety is a collective responsibility. By implementing these preventive measures and staying vigilant, we can significantly reduce the risk of drowning and ensure a safer environment for our youngest loved ones. Remember, it only takes a moment for a tragedy to occur, but with constant supervision and the right precautions, we can keep our children safe.

Stay safe, stay informed, and let’s make Water Safety Month a time of increased awareness and proactive action.

4. Learn More and Share:

Water Safety Season Toolkit 2024 – NDPA with videos, social media content, printables, and checklists including the two attached. There are many downloadable that can be shared with the families you serve, friends, neighbors, etc.

Learn more at:

5 Water Safety Tips for Kids of All Ages – HealthyChildren.org

Water Safety at Home | Safe Kids Worldwide