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Know the Facts About Drowning

Drowning is Silent

  • Drownings or near-drownings can happen to anyone.
  • Most drownings are silent.
  • Less than 20 seconds.
  • #1 cause of accidental death for children between the ages of 1-4. (CDC)
  • Less than one inch of water. (CDC)
  • 70% of preschool drownings are in the care of one or both parents at the time of drowning and 75% are missing from sight for five minutes or less. (Orange County, CA Fire Authority)
  • 56% of adults who say they can swim are able to perform five critical water safety skills. (American Red Cross)
  • According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, most children over the age of one may be at a lower risk of drowning if they have had some formal swimming instruction.

CPSC’s latest data show there were, on average, 351 reported fatal child drownings in pools and spas in 2015 involving children younger than 15. Of those 351 reported fatal child drownings in 2015, 266 (76 percent) involved children younger than five. Other key findings include:

  • Annually, 73 percent of the hospital emergency room-treated nonfatal drowning injuries from 2015 through 2017 involved children younger than five.
  • Male children younger than 15 had twice as many fatal drownings as female children of the same age.
  • From 2015 through 2017, an estimated average of 6,400 children younger than 15 years old were reportedly treated in hospital emergency rooms for nonfatal drowning injuries in pools or spas.
  • Between 2015 and 2017, residential locations made up 74 percent of reported fatal drowning incidents, and at least 45 percent of reported nonfatal drowning incidents for children younger than 15.
  • In addition, residential locations dominated reported incidents involving victims younger than five, with 54 percent of nonfatal drowning injuries among that age group from 2015 through 2017–and 85 percent for fatal drownings from 2013 through 2015–all occurring at a residence.
  • The majority of the estimated hospital emergency room-treated, nonfatal drowning injuries for 2015 through 2017, and the reported fatal drownings for 2013 through 2015, were associated with pools (versus spas).

Recommended Prevention Tips

Designate a Water Watcher

  • Learn and practice lifesaving skills. Know the basics of swimming (floating, moving through water), CPR and First Aid.
  • Phone is charged and available
  • Install a four-sided isolation fence with self-closing and self-latching gates around backyard swimming pools.
  • Install a pool alarm.
  • Always check the pool first. (CDC)
  • Never leave water in buckets, wading pools or inflatable pools.
  • Swim lessons should not be seen as “drown proofing.” (AAP)
  • Avoid inflatable swimming aids; they are not a substitute for approved life vests and often give children and parents a false sense of security. (AAP)
  • Know the signs of drowning for yourself and others. If you are exhibiting signs of drowning, STOP and FLOAT. (GLSRP)

For Adults & Caregivers

9 Water Safety Mistakes Even Careful Parents Make
Four-time Olympian Gold Medalist Janet Evans recently gave the top 9 mistakes that even careful parents can make in regard to water safety. As a mother of two kids ages 7 and 4, she has plenty of hands-on experience keeping kids safer in the water—and smart insights into the pool mistakes even careful parents make.

  1. “My child is too young to learn to swim” – Statistics compiled by the USA Swimming Foundation prove that when you put your child in formal swimming lessons, it reduces their risk of drowning by 88%.
  2. “The lifeguard will watch them.” – Drownings at pool parties are swift and silent, and usually take place with adults standing feet away from the pool. Put the cell phone away, forget about all the other things you have to do and give young children 100% of your attention when they are near or around water. Water Watcher Cards – designates an adult as the Water Watcher for a certain amount of time (such as 15-minute periods) to prevent lapses in supervision.
  3. “My child is water safe.” – Janet Evans says: “No child is ever water safe. I am an Olympic champion, and I am not water safe! I could trip on the pool deck, hit my head and fall in.” As a USA Swimming Foundation Ambassador, I stress the importance of keeping children “safer” in and around the water, giving us one less thing to worry about.” Always ask, “Is there risk involved? How can I reduce the risk for my children?” As a family, learn to identify the risks associated with activities in, on, or around water.
  4. “I can solely rely on water wings to teach my kids to swim.” – Parents think that water wings help their kids learn how to swim, but most water safety advocates do not recommend them because they give children a false sense of security. When a child accidentally falls in a pool it is generally without water wings on. They need to know how to swim without them. Swimming aids such as water wings or noodles are fun toys for kids, but they should never be used in place of a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD). Never use flotation devices as a substitute for supervision. These toys do not prevent drowning, nor are they a life-saving device.
    No Water Wings
  5. “My pool is safe.” – Drain Entrapments: Parents should make sure that their pool’s drain and pump systems are compliant with current state and federal regulations. (find information at Pool Safely.gov). Long hair should always be secured when swimming so that it does not become trapped in a faulty drain. Don’t be shy about asking your local public pool if their drains and pump symptoms are compliant. You also want to keep the deck free of pool toys and other objects, so no child can trip and fall into the pool. It’s important to teach your kids proper pool and spa behavior, and to make sure that they are aware of the safety rules. Inflatable pools can be as dangerous as a regular pool; empty and turn over or deflate when not in use.
    Pool Rules
  6. “I can leave the pool for a few minutes to answer the phone or grab something from the house.” – Once again, no child is ever pool- or water-safe. Drowning is silent and takes two minutes. Never take your eyes off of your child while they are in a body of water for any reason. Never leave a baby in the tub even for a second. Children drown in bath seats and rings quickly and silently. Siblings cannot properly supervise a young child in this situation. If a child cannot swim, stay within arm’s reach of the child. Even in a portable pool.
  7. I don’t need a gate around my pool.” – Children can slip out of homes and into a pool unnoticed, and even children with swimming abilities could run into trouble. Home pools (along with hot tubs and Jacuzzis) should have a self-locking gate around them if children are present in and around the home at any time. For pool owners:
    • Install four-sided isolation fencing
    • Use pool alarms
    • Hot tubs should be covered and locked when not in use
    • Portable pools need to be treated with the same caution
  8. “If I can’t find my child, I should search the house before checking the pool.” – If your home has a pool, it should be the very first place you look. Once again, drowning is swift and silent. Know which of your child’s friends and neighbors have pools. Make sure your child will be supervised by an adult while visiting.
  9. “I’ll know what to do if my child needs help.” – Every adult should know CPR and the actions to take if they find a child unconscious in a pool. You can never be too prepared. CPR administered in a timely manner can prevent brain damage and be the difference between life and death. Parents have a million things to do but getting CPR certified should be on the top of the list. It will give you tremendous peace of mind – and the more peace of mind you have as a parent, the better. The American Red Cross, local hospitals, fire departments and recreation departments offer CPR training. Keep rescue equipment and a first aid kit poolside. Know how to use the rescue equipment. Have an emergency action plan for your family and have a phone with emergency numbers programmed into speed dial.
  10. Swimming Skills
    Children are safer when they master swimming skills at an early age. Qualified instructors in numerous public and private community swimming programs around the country can provide ongoing development of swimming skills while teaching proper behavior in and around the water. Teaching kids to swim should be a process, not an event.


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