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Sink, Swim, or Save: Summer Water Safety Tips

Sink, Swim, or Save: Summer Water Safety Tips

Finding a child facedown and motionless in a pool is a terrible event. It's also preventable.

During the summer, the sun is hot and the water is cool. That’s reason enough for parents and caregivers to be ever more diligent. Children are often drawn to water, just as they are often unaware of the potential dangers.

According to the CDC, every day about ten people die from unintentional drowning, which ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States. Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children ages 1-4.

Debra Samaha is program director of the Injury Prevention Center at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. “Finding a child facedown and motionless in a pool is a terrible event,” she says. “It's also preventable.”

It’s up to adults keep kids safe near water. Below we’ve gathered together some of the best safety tips to help you do just that.


  • One of the number one life saving safety tips is for parents and kids is to take swim lessons.
  • Teach children to ask permission to go near water.
  • Teach children that swimming in open water is not the same as swimming in a pool.

TIP: They need to be aware of uneven surfaces, river currents, ocean undertow and changing weather.

Swimming Safety

  • Never swim alone.
  • Only swim when a lifeguard is present, and still with a buddy.
  • Young and inexperienced swimmers should wear life jackets, a U.S Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device.
  • Water wings and tubes are fun, they are not safety devices.

TIP: Make sure - life jackets fit snugly. Have kids make a "touchdown" signal by raising both arms straight up; if the life jacket hits a child's chin or ears, it may be too big or the straps may be too loose.

Make Water Safety Your Priority

  • No using cell phones while on supervising duties.
  • Never leave a child unattended (by an adult) near water.
  • Never just drop kids off at the public pool or leave them at the beach.

At Home or at a Friend’s House

  • All pools (in-ground and above-ground), hot tubs, slip & slides and wading pools or ponds have a barrier or are covered.
  • Make sure access ladders are removed.
  • Check for trees or furniture a child can use to access water.
  • Use alarms on gates, doors or sliding doors through which a child can gain access to water.

TIP: Store toys that can attract children to the pool area out of sight.

Be Prepared for an Emergency

  • If a child is missing always check the water first.

  • Every second counts.

  • Babies can drown in as little as one inch of water.

  • Learn CPR, lessons are often free by local community resources.

  • Have a first aid kit on hand.

  • Have appropriate lifesaving gear close at hand.

TIP: Reach or throw, don’t go.

Hidden Dangers

  • Even washing cars can be a potential danger. Be sure to completely empty all buckets, pails, tubs, containers, as well as blow-and-go or wading pools immediately after use. Store them upside down and out of children’s reach.
  • The suction from a pool drain can be strong enough to hold even an adult underwater, pulling on the hair or on the body and forming a seal. Pool drains have been named one of the top five hidden home hazards by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. For home pools and spas, make sure the drain has an anti-entrapment cover or other safety system, such as an automatic pump shut off.

Read more:

Summertime is Pool Time (PDF)

State of New Hampshire Safety Educator (PDF)