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How You Can Help Kids Stay Safe in the Water

Beach safety
Around water, supervision can mean the difference between life and death.

Few things are as fun as visiting the beach or pool over Labor Day, savoring one last summer weekend. But do you know how to ensure a safe visit with children of all ages? The American Red Cross has guidelines to prevent drowning and encourage safe supervision around the water.

DROWNING: LAYERS OF PROTECTION Every day, an average of 10 people die in the U.S. from unintentional drowning – and 1 in 5 are children 14 or younger, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children and fifth leading cause for people of all ages. In addition, for every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.

Layers of protection are essential to help prevent drowning. These layers can provide backup if one protective strategy fails. The Red Cross Circle of Drowning Prevention illustrates these layers so you can plan ahead and help prevent drowning:

  • Provide close and constant supervision to children you are supervising in or near water.
  • Fence pools and spas with barriers and include four-sided fencing to prevent unsupervised access.
  • Learn swimming and water safety skills.
  • Wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets, especially children, inexperienced swimmers and boaters.
  • Always swim in lifeguarded areas.
  • Also see a recent article covering increased efforts to reduce drowning.

    WATER SUPERVISION TIPS Let’s take a closer look at supervision, which is different around the water than in most other settings. Around the water, supervision can mean the difference between life and death. It requires total and constant attention to those in the water or going to get in the water. In fact, in most drownings, lack of good supervision allowed the drowning to occur. Even when lifeguards are on duty, children should also be watched by those who brought them.

    Here are some tips for providing good supervision around water:

  • Stay within arm’s reach of young children or non-swimmers.
  • Establish and enforce rules for children based on swimming abilities, such as the area of the water that they must stay within.
  • Know how to respond to problems, including how to perform a water rescue without getting in the water.
  • Make sure everyone being supervised knows who is in charge. A “water watcher card” can help keep everyone aware.
  • Remain free from distractions, especially cell phones, and when you are supervising, avoid socializing or engaging in other activities.
  • Avoid alcohol use before or while supervising water activities.
  • WATER SAFETY VIDEOS The short videos below were prepared by an aquatics specialist from the Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council and offer specific water safety tips based on children’s age ranges:

  • Infants and toddlers
  • Tweens
  • Teens
  • The Red Cross strongly encourages you to get training to help you prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies around water. Training could include swim lessons and water safety, first aid and CPR courses. Visit Take a Class on to learn more – the knowledge you gain could make a lifesaving difference.

    About the American Red Cross:
    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.