Hooray! It’s summer… Lazy days at the pool, lake or ocean. I spent my summers at my grandparents’ lake cabin — waterskiing, swimming, fishing and boating. As an adult, my family spends lots of time camping and traveling and that translates into lots of time around water, too! 

So, let’s take a few minutes together and brush up our water safety skills. 

water safety

Sobering Statistics

Did you know that drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for kids aged 1-4?  And the second-leading cause of preventable death through age 15?

Overall, about 3,400 people die each year in the United States by drowning accidents — and most of those are preventable. That’s roughly 10 people per day, not including boating accidents, according to Injury Facts, the annual statistical report on unintentional injuries produced by the National Safety Council.

There are three primary types of drowning: Primary drowning, dry drowning and secondary drowning. They’re equally scary. 

Keep reading to the end for stories from lifeguard moms, RN moms, moms who have lost children to drowning and others who offer excellent advice on how to safeguard your family around water. 


How It Happens 

It only takes a second and it usually doesn’t look like it does on TV

On television, we see thrashing arms, someone yelling, “Help,” and lots of splashing. In real life, drowning is silent, almost motionless and quick. 

And it doesn’t have to happen in a crowded swimming pool or ocean riptide. It can happen anywhere. Bathtubs, buckets and even toilets can pose a danger for very young children.

Older kids and teenagers aren’t immune, either. Alcohol is involved in about half of all male teen drownings, according to KidsHealth.org.  And while younger children are more likely to drown in pools, teens are more likely to drown in lakes, rivers, oceans, ponds and other natural water. According to statistics, the rate of fatal drownings in natural water for 15 to 17 year olds is more than triple that of children 5-9 years old.

Remember: It only takes a moment. 


What Can We Do? 

Turns out, some simple precautions can lessen many of the dangers water presents. These tips are gathered from various organizations that promote water safety: 

  • Never leave a child unattended in or near water
  • If a child is missing, check the water first
  • Teach children how to swim
  • Teach children to stay away from pool and spa drains
  • Ensure all pools and spas — both in your backyard and any public pool you may visit — have compliant drain covers
  • Install proper barriers, covers and alarms on and around pools and spas
  • Know how to perform CPR and rescue techniques
  • Wear Coast Guard-approved life jackets when in boats or on personal watercraft
  • Don’t underestimate the power of water; even rivers and lakes can have undertows
  • Have a first aid kit and emergency contacts handy
  • Never swim alone
  • Make sure the body of water matches your skill level
  • If you do get caught in a current, don’t try to fight it; stay calm and float with it, or swim parallel to the shore until you can swim free
  • Swim in areas supervised by a lifeguard
  • Don’t push or jump on others
  • Don’t dive in unfamiliar areas
  • Never drink alcohol when swimming

water safety

Lessons + Resources

A group called Pool Safely developed a pledge for adults and kids, demonstrating their commitment to safety. Sign it online and a downloadable toolkit full of great resources pops up on the page. This website also has a Kids Corner and a section just for grandparents.

On a personal note, both of our sons have taken years’ worth of swimming lessons. We have always given them the choice of whether they wanted to play soccer or basketball or take art lessons. But swim lessons have always been non-negotiable — to me, swimming is as important a life skill as cooking. Years later, one of our sons is taking a few weeks of refresher lessons before our summer travels because… why not? 

And you know what? I have noticed there are lots of adults taking lessons, too. If you don’t know how to swim, mama, it’s never too late to learn. Seriously. Be brave. Do it for your kids. Do it for yourself. 

Words of Wisdom from Other Moms: 

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