Water Safety

While water recreation provides hours of enjoyment and exercise for children, water and children can be a deadly mix when an unsafe environment, inadequate supervision or improperly used safety gear is also present. Drowning remains the second leading cause of injury-related death among children ages 1 to 14. For children under age 1, more than half of the drownings occur in the bathtub. Children this age also drown in toilets and buckets.

Water safety tips for children under 1:

  • Empty all buckets and any other large containers after use.
  • Keep the bathroom door closed at all times.
  • Never leave a child alone in the bathroom.
  • Keep toilets closed or use toilet latches.
  • Use a rigid, lockable cover on a hot tub, spa, or whirlpool.
Water safety tips around pools and bodies of water:
  • Never leave a young child unsupervised in or around water, even for a moment.
  • Always designate a responsible adult to serve as the “child watcher” – a supervisor whose sole responsibility is to constantly observe children in or near the water.
  • Supervisors should maintain continuous visual and auditory contact with children in or near the water, and should stay in close proximity (waterside) so that they can effectively intervene if an emergency situation should arise.
  • Supervisors should not engage in distracting behaviors such as talking on the phone, preparing a meal or reading.
  • Supervisors should keep children who cannot swim within arm's reach at all times.
  • Children should be enrolled in swimming lessons by age 8.
  • Parents and caregivers should learn infant and child CPR.
  • Educate children about the rules of water safety, including:
    • Always swim with a buddy and an adult present;
    • Never swim in an open body of water or go boating without wearing a PFD
    • Never dive into a river, lake or ocean
    • If someone is in trouble in the water, call for help and throw something that floats to the victim. A child should never enter the water to try to save someone.

Water Safety

Too often, firefighters hear people say, “it was just a few seconds.” Unfortunately, just a few seconds is all it takes for a child to drown. Most children drown in their own backyard swimming pool, however, an alarming number of children drown in buckets, bathtubs, toilets, dog water bowls, canals and ponds. Small children are top-heavy, and they don't have the upper body strength to lift themselves out of one of these dangerous situations. Even if the child survives the incident, they are often left with permanent brain damage. Drowning and near drowning can be prevented, and you can help! Anyone involved with the supervision of children need to be aware of the dangers associated with any body of water. Below are some useful tips to prevent these needless tragedies.

Safety Around the Pool

  • Know where your children are at all times
  • Use an approved barrier to separate the pool from the house
  • Never allow children to be alone near a pool or any water source
  • Have life-saving devices near the pool, such as a pole/hook, or flotation device
  • Keep large objects such as tables, chairs, toys, and ladders away from pool fences
  • Post the9-1-1number on the phone
  • Do not allow children to play around the pool and store all toys outside the pool area
  • If you leave the pool area, take the children with you
  • Always have a “designated child watcher”
  • Learn to swim
  • Never swim alone, or while under the influence of alcohol or medications
  • Never swim when thunder or lightning is present
  • Never dive into unfamiliar or shallow bodies of water​

Whether vacationing on a beach in San Diego, staying at a hotel with a pool, visiting relatives or friends who own pools, taking a tubing trip down a river or boating on a lake… water safety must be practiced wherever water is present! 

Here are some simple water safety tips to follow when planning your next family vacation: 

  • Enforce the same safety rules you use at home. Take time to explain the importance of following these same rules to your children. 
  • Never allow children to swim unsupervised in a hotel/motel pool: Never assume someone else is watching your child. 
  • Check out the pool before you swim: Is the water clean and clear? Where is the deep end? Is there a lifeguard on duty? Where is the rescue equipment, and how is it used? Where is the phone, and can you dial out directly? 
  • When staying at a relative or friend’s home, look for possible water hazards (pools, ponds, buckets, bathtubs, toilets, dog bowls, etc.). 
  • When boating, wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket: When planning boating events, make sure to pack a life jacket for each person. Children are required to wear a life jacket at all times in a boat in many states. Bring along other items that float such as cooler, cushions, etc. 
  • Know what is in and under an open water area: Find out about hazards such as marine life, parasites, currents, drop-offs, very cold water, or submerged objects. Enter all unfamiliar water feet first. 
  • If the water is shared by boats, BE VISIBLE: Have your child wear a bright colored swim cap, stay close to shore, and actively watch for boats. 
  • Know what to do if your child falls in the river: Go downstream immediately to position yourself to help.

Bathtub Safety

Nationally, about 80 children die annually from bathtub drownings. Here are some tips for keeping your child safe in the tub: 

  • Supervision. NEVER leave a child unattended in the bathtub for ANY REASON. There is nothing important enough to risk drowning! Children can drown in just a few inches of water, and can easily topple into the tub while you’re dashing out to answer the phone, get a towel, etc. 
  • Don’t run to answer the phone.
  • Don’t check to see who’s at the door.
  • Don’t leave your child to be watched by an older brother or sister. 
  • Bath seats. Several types of bath seats and rings adhere to the bottom of the tub with suction cups and offer bathing infants and toddlers support while sitting. Don't think that you can leave your child unattended. The suction cups can come loose, and it isn't hard for a child to slide out of the seats. 
  • Get supplies first. Collect soap, towel, diaper, clothing, toys, and any other items you plan on using before you even run the bath water. Place these items where you can reach them easily. 
  • Water heater. To reduce the risk of scalding, set your home's water heater to a maximum of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. A good test: You should be able to hold your hand comfortably under the tap even when the hot water alone is running. 
  • Faucet covers. Placing a soft, insulated cover over the bathtub faucet is a prudent safeguard against accidental burns or bumps. They are available at many baby-supplies stores. 
  • Slips and Falls. Prevent bathtub slips and falls by placing a rubber mat in the tub or affixing non-slip adhesive decals or strips to the bottom of the tub. 
  • Electrical hazards. Keep electrical devices (including hair dryers, curling irons, and electric razors) well away from the tub. 
  • Slippery floors. Be sure to use (and teach your child to use) extra caution and keep a non-slip bathroom rug by the side of the tub for your child to step onto after bathing.

Bucket Safety

Buckets filled with water or other liquids, especially the large five-gallon size, present a drowning hazard to small children.  Nationally, about 25 children drown every year in buckets, and many more are hospitalized. Many of the containers involved in drownings nationally were 5-gallon buckets containing liquids. Most were used for mopping floors or other household chores. Many were less than half full.

A young child’s curiosity, along with their crawling and pulling up while learning to walk can lead to danger when buckets are used around the house. Curious children lean forward to play in the water. When they topple into the bucket, they are unable to free themselves and drown. The 5-gallon bucket is particularly dangerous because its heavier weight makes it more stable than a smaller bucket, and unlikely to tip over when a child uses it to pull up. These containers are about half the height of the infants, and with several gallons of water, weigh more than children of that age.

  • Never leave any bucket of water or other liquid unattended when small children are around. 
  • Even a partly filled bucket can be a drowning hazard. 
  • When doing household chores, immediately empty out buckets when finished, or move them to a safe place before taking a break. 

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