Drowning incidents can occur both when people are actively engaged in water activities and during non-swim times, all when an adult is present. According to the World Health Organization, a lapse in adult water supervision is the main contributing factor when young children die from drowning, even when safety measures are implemented. Fortunately, drowning is preventable but is often a result of human and environmental factors that can be improved upon with proper education and awareness.
Through years of research and collaboration with Alliance Partners and Advisors, we have developed the concept of the 5 Layers of Protection to be utilized in any aquatic environment to aid in the prevention of childhood drowning.
While these layers are put into place as a system of increased security, each Layer of Protection should be used constantly and simultaneously in an effort to buy as much time as possible for capable adults to respond to unintentional water submersion. Each individual layer can fail, which is why the use of multiple layers at the same time is critically important. Drownings are fast, silent, and often do not look like we would expect them to. Most children will not be able to call out for help.
The Important Role Water Supervision Plays In Drowning Prevention
Children should be supervised at all times due to their naturally curious nature. Water can be fascinating and irresistible to young kids, especially if they are just learning to be mobile.
Young children are not aware of danger yet, so it is the responsibility of a capable and alert adult to actively watch over them, even at home.
Follow these Supervision best practices in conjunction with the other 5 Layers of Protection:
- The “3 C’s” of Supervision:
An adult should be within arm’s length of infants, toddlers, and children who lack water competency skills whenever in or around water
An adult must have uninterrupted attention on children at all times. That means no reading, cell phone use, or other distractions.
Supervision of children should be done by a capable adult that can swim and knows life-saving skills, like performing CPR with rescue breaths.
- Having General House Rules:
When water is present, always be aware of where your children are and never leave them unattended. Remind guests with children, babysitters, and caregivers about the potential water hazards and the need for constant and capable supervision. If a child is missing, always check the water first – each second counts!
- Never Substitute Floatation Devices For Supervision:
“Water Wings” or “floaties,” inflatable water rings, and other pool toys are NOT safety devices. Only US Coast Guard-approved life jackets are designed and tested for safety. Be aware of any floatation devices marketed and sold in a way that references “learn to swim easily” or “parents can finally enjoy peace of mind.” There is not a single flotation device that replaces adult supervision for children in and around water.
- Water Watchers:
Have a designated Water Watcher when engaging in water activities. A designated Water Watcher is a responsible and capable adult who agrees to actively and constantly supervise children in or around water without engaging in other activities or distractions.
Water Watchers should rotate every 15 minutes to keep their attention fresh. Ensure your designated Water Watcher is clearly identified with a Water Watcher card. You can download yours here.
When possible, swim near lifeguards. Lifeguards are trained in supervision, water rescue, and emergency response. However, caregivers and parents should always maintain active supervision, even with a lifeguard present.
Why Water Supervision Fails
Life is hectic, and distractions will happen. In a matter of seconds, so can a drowning. A phone call, a package being delivered at the door, cleaning up a spill, or a quick trip to the bathroom are all distractions that can cause supervision to fail.
Children are curious and could venture near water even during non-swim times when water supervision is not “expected” to be required. Sadly, 70% of drownings among young children happen during these non-swim times. This is another way supervision alone can unintentionally fail, and why it’s so important that the 5 Layers of Protection are used together!
- Barriers & Alarms
It’s important to use four-sided fencing with self-closing, self-latching gates, pool safety covers, and alarm systems, to help prevent children and unauthorized adults from accessing water unsupervised.
Stay vigilant and aware of your surroundings with close, constant, and capable adult supervision from a designated water watcher or lifeguard anytime children are in or around water.
- Water Competency
Every child and adult should be equipped with the skills to protect themselves in water by learning and enhancing their basic water safety skills to reduce the risk of drowning and aquatic-related injuries.
- Life Jackets
When used appropriately, life jackets protect you when you are not expecting to be in the water, especially around open water. Ensure your life jackets are tested & approved by the USCG.
- Emergency Preparation
Knowing how to prepare for an emergency with CPR training with rescue breaths and basic water rescue skills can make the difference between life and death. Have a phone available and ready to call 911.
Remember, layers work together! Water safety isn’t just during swim time. Each layer should be used together when in or around water to help reduce the risk of drowning.
Supervision – An Important Part of the 5 Layers of Protection
A child’s life is precious, and children’s safety in and around water is the responsibility of parents and caregivers. Supervision is a very important layer of protection, but it cannot be relied upon alone. By using all 5 Layers of Protection, you are doing all you can to keep your child safe in and around water. You never know which layer will save a life!