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  • Millions of children missed the opportunity to participate in formal swimming lessons last season due to the pandemic, creating an urgent need for water safety training and swim lessons this summer. TEAM WLSL™ is getting back on deck to send the message Swimming Lessons Save Lives™ to help prevent childhood drowning and teach families how to Be Water Aware.  
  • The 2021 World’s Largest Swimming Lesson will offer hundreds of aquatic centers, swim schools and waterparks the chance to focus in on the urgency of getting kids back in the water for formal swim lessons to help make up for the lessons and water safety training they missed in 2020.
  • What is exciting about the WLSL event is that so many organizations and individual aquatic facilities are coming together to make it happen. The WLSL helps capture all the passion we have for this critical issue as individuals and focuses all that energy on one message for one day.
  • Drowning is a public health crisis. In the U.S., it’s the leading cause of accidental death for kids ages 1-4 and the second leading cause for kids 14 and under. Yet, a large percentage of adults don’t recognize this risk or provide the right layers of protection to prevent drowning.
  • Internationally, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that drowning is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths. 
  • According to a 2020 research study conducted by the American Red Cross, more than half (54%) of U.S. kids ages 4-17 are not able to perform the basic water safety skills that can save their life.
  • More drowning and near drowning incidents take place in the U.S during the month of June than any other month of the year.
  • According to a 2018 report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 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.
  • Nearly 80% of drowning victims are male.  Also, African-American children ages 5 to 19 drown at rates 5.5 times higher than Caucasian children. This disparity is greatest among those 11-12 years where African Americans drown in swimming pools at rates 10 times those of Caucasians.
  • Drowning is predictable, incredibly fast and quiet: Most children who drown are out of sight for less than 5 minutes. Drowning can occur in as little as two minutes and victims do not signal for help. In addition, 70% of drownings happen during non-swim times.
  • Research shows participation in formal swimming lessons by kids ages 1-4 can significantly reduce the risk of drowning, yet many children still do not participate in formal water safety training or swimming lessons.
  • The World’s Largest Swimming Lesson was created in 2010 as a platform to support public education about safer water practices and to build awareness about the critical importance of teaching children to swim to help prevent drowning. 
  • Since its inception, more than 320,000 children and adults have participated in life-saving WLSL lessons, generating more than two BILLION media impressions about the vital importance of learning to swim. 
  • TEAM WLSL™ has set five multi-venue and three single venue Guinness® World Records since the program began in 2010.

TEAM WLSL™ is on a mission to make sure every parent understands the critical importance of teaching kids to swim and how to Be Water Aware to prevent drowning.

Show your support by sharing this important message.

Education and knowledge is the key for everything and definitely something we should focus on in 2021. 

According to the CDC, an average of 10 fatal drowning incidents happen in the USA every day and is the leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for children 1-4 years, the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for children 1-14 years, and is the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for all ages in the United States.  The WHO has reported that drowning is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths. 

This makes drowning a very serious issue that should be addressed throughout the year in order to avoid and prevent fatal and non-fatal drowning incidents. The beginning of a new year is the best time to plan exactly how we can do this in the form of water safety resolutions.

Here are ten to get you started:

1.- Implement layers of protection at home

The term “layers of protection” is one used to classify the majority of strategies directly affecting aquatic environments. Parents, caregivers, residential pool owners, aquatic facility owners, managers and operators should use “layers of protection” to provide a system of increased security to prevent unauthorized access to bodies of water, especially important for children. This means that multiple strategies or devices are used constantly and simultaneously.

Learn more about how to implement them here.

2.- Practice water safety at home

  • Never leave your child alone in the bathtub—even for a moment. Many bathtub drownings happen (even in a few inches of water) when a parent leaves a small child alone or with another young child. Also, bath seats are just bathing aids. Bath seats can tip over and your child can slip out of them, so they won’t prevent drowning.
  • Empty water from containers, such as large pails and 5-gallon buckets, immediately after use.
  • Keep bathroom doors closed. Install door knob covers or a hook-and-eye latch or other lock that is out of the reach of your small child.
  • Keep toilets closed. Always close the toilet lid, and consider using a toilet lid latch.

Find more ways to be water safe at home in our blog post Home Water Safety Tips.

3.- Teach your children about water safety

Families have always played a vital role in teaching kids how important it is to learn to swim and behave safely in and around the water. If your child isn’t able to take formal swim lessons right now, you can still help them learn to be safer around backyard pools, ponds or other natural bodies of water.

These are some great resources to help you get started.

4.- Actively support the NDPA to promote water safety and drowning prevention all year long.

The mission of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance is to reduce the incidence of drowning and aquatic injuries in the US and abroad. United, we can reach our goal of 0 drownings.

Whether you join or support the alliance in other ways, you can empower your communities to take more action, touch more lives, and make an even greater difference. Check out 5 Ways You Can Support The NDPA for more ideas.

5.- Promote water safety and ways to prevent drowning in your community.

Find information, actions and resources to get your community involved in water safety advocacy efforts whether they be in person or online at the NDPA Resource Center.

6.- Enroll your children in swimming lessons.

Swim skills add a layer of protection to prevent drowning incidents. Formal swimming lessons reduce the risk of drowning among children 1-4 years by 88%. This is the only sport that can actually save lives and can also reduce the risk of drowning among older individuals.

Learn more about Swimming Lessons As A Layer Of Protection To Prevent Drownings.

7.- Learn CPR with rescue breaths. Compression-only CPR does not treat drowning.

Anyone who lives in a home with a pool should learn CPR and rescue breathing. CPR training and certification should be refreshed every one to two years, depending upon the certification agency, or more frequently if there have been recent changes in recommendations.

Along with learning CPR, there are other layers of protection that you should learn which are intended to minimize injury should a child gain access to the water and are meant to be used immediately in the event of such an emergency.

8.- Invest in a life vest for each member of the family.

A properly fit life jacket is a very effective life-saving strategy in the quest to reduce the number of fatal drowning incidents in the country. Learn more about it here.

9.- Register for the 2021 National Water Safety Conference

The conference is a great fit for anyone involved in child safety advocacy, injury prevention, safety education, water safety, drowning prevention, first response, public health, public policy, aquatics, and many more areas!

This year the #NWSC2021 will be offered from March 29 to April 1, 2021 in a virtual format. It will include a range of different activities including hosted virtual networking sessions, live general sessions and keynote addresses, interactive sessions, pre-recorded breakout educational sessions, and so much more. The best part of a virtual conference – no travel, hotel, and expenditure costs. Get ALL the education from the comfort of home!

Register now!

10.- Join the NDPA Water Safety Warriors Group!

The NDPA has the goal of bringing everyone who has a vested interest in drowning prevention and water safety together. This way, we can provide education and resources to prevent drowning and aquatic injury by making water safer to enjoy.

By providing this space to connect to each other, access to the most current information, and share resources to help  be more effective in our efforts, we are sure can reach our goal to end accidental drownings!

Just click to join!

NDPA Sustaining sponsor blog cover

The National Water Safety Conference, hosted by the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA) is the nation’s leading annual event devoted to drowning prevention and water safety. The conference is hosted for the cross-section of the industry and is built on a foundation of top thought leadership and education.

It is thanks to the commitment and continued support of our sustaining sponsors that our flagship conference reaches a national and global audience, offering intelligent, engaging and relevant content to all attendees.

For everything NDPA Sustaining Sponsors have done for us in the past, everything they still do and will continue to do, we at the National Drowning Prevention Alliance are thankful and excited about all the possibilities we see in a prosperous future together.

https://us.ddtech.com/

D&D Technologies is a company dedicated to the design and manufacture of quality, state-of the-art gate latches, locks and hinges.

D&D Technologies now enjoys a reputation as the #1 gate hardware designer in the world, with established markets in Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, South America, the UK and Europe. They confidently guarantee the highest quality of the products they sell. With options available for all gate applications and materials D&D hardware is ISO tested and certified to the most stringent standards.

While they are in the business of profit, they are also very proud of the fact their products save children’s lives. They give back to the community with strong financial and practical support of child-drowning-prevention organisations worldwide such as the NDPA. It’s all part of their passion and commitment.

https://www.cvent.com/

Cvent offers software solutions to event planners and marketers for online event registration, venue selection, event management and marketing, onsite solutions, and attendee engagement. #Cvent’s suite of products automate and simplify the planning process to maximize the impact of events.

With their support, the NDPA has managed to take the National Water Safety Conference to the next level as a virtual event.

https://counsilmanhunsaker.com/

For more than 45 years, Counsilman-Hunsaker has led the industry by completing more than 1,000 national and international aquatic projects of every size and complexity. In fact, many of the innovations that are now standard in the industry were conceived at Counsilman-Hunsaker.

The NDPA thanks them for their commitment to the audiovisual aspects of the National Water Safety Conference. Their effort, time and support have contributed to the continued success of this annual event.

https://www.familiesunitedtopreventdrowning.org/

Families United to Prevent Drowning is a group of people connected for the worst possible reason: the loss or near loss of someone we love to a water tragedy. Through Families United, we join to create one voice. Together we say, “Not one more drowning.”

Though their stories were different, the end result was undeniably the same: drowning is preventable. These shattered families forged a union that would create one singular, shared vision for the future. Stronger together than apart. Today, that group is 60 families strong. And sadly, growing.

https://www.ipssa.com/

The Independent Pool and Spa Service Association, Inc. exists for the mutual professional benefit and growth of its members and for the continued improvement of the pool and spa industry.

https://michaelphelpsfoundation.org/

Upon returning home to the U.S. after competing in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Michael launched the Michael Phelps Foundation and embarked upon an eight-city tour across the country to share his Dream, Plan, Reach message with Boys & Girls Clubs of America members.

In 2009, along with the help of KidsHealth.org and Michael Phelps Swimming, we developed our signature program, IM. IM is a water-safety, physical and mental wellness, and goal-setting program for Boys & Girls Clubs of America members and Special Olympics International athletes.

https://www.phta.org/

The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance protects and advances the common interests of the industry by providing education, advocacy, standards development, research, and market growth to increase our members’ professionalism, knowledge and profitabilit

It is their core purpose to promote safe and healthy pool and hot tub environments for people to share enjoyable aquatic experiences.

https://www.usaswimming.org/foundation/

Serving as the philanthropic arm of USA Swimming, the USA Swimming Foundation works to strengthen the sport by saving lives and building champions. By equipping our children with the life-saving skill of learn-to-swim and providing financial support to our heroes on the U.S. National Team, the USA Swimming Foundation aims to provide the wonderful experience of swimming to kids at all levels across the country.

https://www.iccsafe.org/

The International Code Council is the leading global source of model codes and standards and building safety solutions that include product evaluation, accreditation, technology, training, and certification. The Code Council’s codes, standards, and solutions are used to ensure safe, affordable, and sustainable communities and buildings worldwide.

https://joshtheotter.org/

The Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation‘s mission is to educate children and adults worldwide about water safety through the utilization of drowning prevention campaigns & early childhood water safety training.

https://www.misstristan.com/

Miss Tristan Foundation was formed to ensure that Tristan Lynn Byrd would live on through the organization’s drowning prevention efforts. They are dedicated to raise water safety awareness through education of children and adults in and around spas, pools, and open bodies of water

Due to delayed opening dates for most aquatic venues brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the WLSL has issued the following statement:

“We know that the last few weeks have been difficult for all of us. As a global community we’ve been asked to make big changes in a short time to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and there are still a lot of unanswered questions about when and if we will be able to get back to our normal operations. Yet, despite facing so many unknowns, we’ve been inspired to see you sharing water safety tips, lesson plans and activities about why it’s important to learn to swim, designate adult water watchers and provide layers of protection.

Although our WLSL event might look different than it has in the past, we believe that spreading the Swimming Lessons Save Lives message whenever we can is still so important. To that end, we’ve decided to offer all host locations two options to be part of TEAM WLSL in 2020:

First, we’re shifting our official WLSL event date to July 16, 2020 to allow more facilities a chance to get open or to reopen.

Second, if July 16th will not work for your schedule, you will have the option to host your 2020 WLSL event on any day of your choosing in June, July or August.

We hope that these two options will give more of you flexibility in supporting this year’s WLSL event. In the coming days, we will be working on updates to the curriculum to address social distancing and we will be creating a collection of revised marketing materials for you to use to promote your 2020 event.

WLSL Logo

We hope that you will join TEAM WLSL on either July 16th or whatever day works best for you this summer!

In the meantime, stay safe and follow your local guidelines until we are given the go-ahead to open for the summer.”

worlds largest swim lesson

OVERLAND PARK, Kan., Feb. 26, 2020 

Registration for the 2020 World’s Largest Swimming Lesson™ (#WLSL2020) is officially open. This year’s event will take place Thursday, June 18, 2020. Organizers are urging aquatic facilities of all types to utilize the global, one-day event to increase awareness about the importance of learning to swim in their local communities.

Registration is now open at WLSL.org. The 2020 event will take place over the course of 24 hours on Thursday, June 18th. #WLSL2020
Registration is now open at WLSL.org. The 2020 event will take place over the course of 24 hours on Thursday, June 18th. #WLSL2020

The worldwide event provides kids and parents exposure to life-saving water safety skills while building awareness about the vital importance of teaching children to swim and undistracted adult supervision to help prevent drowning.

The World’s Largest Swimming Lesson™ will take place on six continents over 24 hours on Thursday, June 18, 2020, as a platform for the aquatics industry to use one voice to send a clear message about the crucial importance of teaching kids to swim. Individual host locations and aquatics providers can conduct the 30-minute lesson any time of day they choose on the 18th.

Per the World Health Organization, drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury-related death, accounting for 7 percent of all injury-related deaths worldwide. In the U.S., drowning remains the leading cause of injury-related death for children ages 1 to 4, and the second leading cause for children under 14.

However, there is reason to hope. Since the WLSL event launched in 2010, the Swimming Lessons Save Lives™ message has been shared with more than two billion people in the U.S. alone. Facilities of all kinds are encouraged to join TEAM WLSL® in their mission to prevent childhood drowning through education. Register at https://www.wlsl.org/WLSL/host_an_event.aspx

About The World’s Largest Swimming Lesson™
WLSL was created as a platform to build awareness about the fundamental importance of teaching children to swim to prevent drowning. WLSL events have provided more than 159,000 working hours of water safety training, more than 20,000 hours each year during the one-day event. Since its inception, more than 319,000 children and adults in 48 countries have participated in WLSL lessons. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApSY4iFZCDc

Contact: 
Aleatha Ezra
234888@email4pr.com 
Phone: 913-599-0300

SOURCE World Waterpark Association

Related Links

http://WLSL.org

blog cover

The re-posting of an opinion article from Slate entitled “Swim Lessons Won’t Keep Your Toddler From Drowning” on the NDPA’s Facebook Page sparked a passionate discussion about the use of swim lessons as a layer of protection to prevent drowning.

The NDPA thanks all of you for taking the time to comment and for your dedication and support of drowning prevention and we encourage respectful commentary. Given the nature of the commentary on this piece and on previous posts, the NDPA felt it important to provide clarity, define our position as the NDPA, and respond to key issues raised.

It is paramount to state first that the NDPA wholeheartedly believes that swimming lessons are an important layer of protection. At many points in the Facebook commentary, the NDPA was accused of attacking swim lessons as an ineffective way of preventing drowning. That is not accurate and it doesn’t not represent our beliefs as an organization.

We do however, believe that we cannot rely solely on one singular layer of protection to prevent drowning. We often cite swim lessons in this context as there have been many incidents in which skilled swimmers have drown. However, we also hold this same belief when it comes to other layers of protection. Pool fences are an important layer, and they can fail. As can self-closing, self-latching gates. One can forget to put a pool cover back on the pool and an alarm’s batteries can expire. Just like skilled swimmers can drown, layers of protection must operate in combination to truly work. This is why the NDPA encourages people to practice all layers of protection, including learning to swim from high quality lessons.

We are confident that many of you would agree, there is no quick and easy solution that will prevent all drowning. This reality is one of the reasons drowning has been so difficult to stop. The polarization and infighting amongst drowning prevention advocates has also played a major role. As an alliance, we represent all areas of water safety and drowning prevention. We support all layers of protection and, as the Alliance, we will not frame our messaging to focus only on one layer.

We appreciate the passion behind the support of learning to swim but if we only focus on the positive effects, we would be doing a disservice to our audience and the public at large. The author of the article in question was making a point that research shows that parents can become overly reliant on swim lessons as a method to protect their children from drowning. The author is not arguing that swimming lessons aren’t a vital part of protecting a child from drowning. Her point was to shed light on the fact that parent’s over estimate their child’s ability and the need for direct supervision after swimming lessons.

An important item we must address is the accusation that the NDPA is not citing research-based studies to support our stance. As the leading organization in drowning prevention and water safety, we firmly believe that research and evidence-based approaches are of paramount importance. While the NDPA did not write the article posted on our Facebook page, we will stand by the fact that the author does cite relevant research in drowning prevention literature. Please see the list of relevant published research studies below that are often used by the NDPA and some of which were discussed in the article in question.

The research published by Dr. Barbara Morrongiello in 2014 that this article cites is an example. The research showed that “as parents perceive their child to be accumulating swim skills, they increasingly believe that children are capable of keeping themselves from drowning, and as a result, that less active parent supervision of the child is necessary.” Obviously, the parent education component of a learn to swim lesson is vital for parents to fully understand the outcomes of swimming lessons. Parents need to appreciate their child’s abilities in the water after swim lessons and that no one of any age or ability level should swim by themselves. We as the NDPA are not insinuating that a swim instructor would claim that their swim lessons will “drown-proof a child”. However, the article points out that parents can make that assumption on their own, given the results of Dr. Morrongiello’s research.

Another example is related to the statistic that learning to swim will reduce the risk of drowning by 88%. This study was not conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), but by Dr. Ruth Brenner and her colleagues at the National Institute of Child Health and Development and published in 2009. We all applaud the AAP’s move to change the age recommendations and push for starting the learn to swim process at younger ages. However, this article points out important components of the research conducted in by Dr. Brenner and her associates that are often overlooked. We often hear the statistic from this study that participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88%. It is often missed that this research had a small sample size and the 95% confidence intervals regarding the protective effects were 3%-99%. There is no argument that this study is an important step forward and has been cited by the AAP as a key reason why they made their recent modifications. However, it is important to note that the team behind this study points to the limitations of their own research and that “swimming skills alone are insufficient to protect a child from drowning.”

There are several research studies below that we as the NDPA have also used in the past to support our stance on several issues. The insinuation that the NDPA does not support, does not believe in, or does not follow relevant evidence and research-based studies and advancements in drowning prevention and water safety is simply inaccurate, unfounded, and completely false. With all due respect, the comments that state the research cited is outdated and inconsistent, furthers the problem we are facing. An example is that AAP just modified their statement and stance regarding swimming lessons this year. That doesn’t make all previous research invalid or inaccurate. We may need to look at opinions, commentary, and research conducted or produced prior to that with the recent changes made in the front of our minds, however, that doesn’t mean we should toss aside any, and everything published prior to 2019. 

Additionally, we never intend to muddy the waters or create inconsistent messages in the drowning prevention space. Our true intent is to advance the discussion by sharing viewpoints, information, and educational content that pushes the drowning prevention and water safety community to have productive discussions addressing the problems we face. This isn’t easy and sometimes can lead to controversy. We are all working to reduce drowning, and as stated before and there is no cure-all to this awful tragedy. We may not always agree on a singular viewpoint. We may disagree with certain people’s opinions. We may find the results of a research study to be unhelpful or in direct contradiction of current messaging. Someone having a differing viewpoint or approach to solving a complex problem (like drowning), doesn’t make them wrong. Having an open discussion and addressing issues where there is disagreement is important and the only action that will advance our shared goals. The NDPA will continue to promote an open and honest discussion about drowning prevention and water safety that is factual, evidence based, and honest as this is our responsibility and role in this space.

Our goal by writing this blog article today is to inform our audience of our decision-making process and the NDPA’s stance on layers of protection as well as our role in the drowning prevention space. It is not to further any arguments or criticism that the NDPA received in relation to this opinion article and in many other instances when sharing various information on our Facebook page. We fully understand and appreciate how highly emotional this topic can be. Our goal is to reduce the number of awful tragedies that causes this to be such an emotional topic. While many disagree with the author or the opinion piece’s tone; we did not share this to support her tone. We shared this work to again shed light on the fact that we can’t be overly reliant on one layer of protection.

The nature of the NDPA as an “alliance” organization means that we, as an alliance, are all in this together. That does not mean its easy and we all agree on everything. But we all can agree drowning is preventable and that the use of multiple layers of protection save lives. With a complex issue such as drowning; the discussion, refinement, and education of the preventative measures will sometimes lead to situations where we find ourselves disagreeing with approaches, messaging, and each other. In these cases, we all need to remind ourselves and others that we share the same goal, to prevent drowning and to save lives.

List of Relevant Research Studies

Blitivich, J. D., Moran, K., Petrass, L. A., McElroy, G. K., & Stanley, T. (2012). Swim instructor beliefs about toddler and preschool swimming and water safety education. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 6(2), 110-121.

Brenner, R. A., Taneja, G. S., Haynie, D. L., Trumble, A. C., Qian, C., Kliner, R. M., & Klebanoff, M. A. (2009). Association between swimming lessons and drowning in childhood. Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, 163(3), 203-210. doi: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2008.563.

Golob, M. I., Giles, A. R., & Rich, K. M. (2013). Enhancing the relevance and effectiveness of water safety education for ethnic and racial minorities. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 7(1), 39-55.

Irwin, C. C., Irwin, R. L., Ryan, T. D., & Drayer, J. (2009). The mythology of swimming: Are myths impacting minority youth participation? International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 3(1), 10-23.

Irwin, C. C., Irwin, R. L., Ryan, T. D., & Drayer, J. (2009). Urban minority youth swimming (in)ability in the United States and associated demographic characteristics: Towards and drowning prevention plan. Injury Prevention, 15(4), 234-239.

Katchmarchi, A. B., Taliaferro, A. R., & Kipfer, H. J., (2017). Document analysis in drowning prevention education, International Journal of Injury Prevention & Safety Promotion. doi: 10.1080/17457300.2017.1341932

Lynch, T. J. (2012). Swimming and water safety: Reaching all children in Australian primary schools. Can you swim? An exploration of measuring real and perceived water competency. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 6(2), 267-278.

Martin, N. T., & Witman, D. (2010). Factors affecting minority drowning. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 4(1), 9-18.

Moran, K., Stallman, R. K., Kjendlie, P., Dahl, D., Blitvich, J. D., Petrass, L. A., … & Shimongata, S. (2012). Can you swim? An exploration of measuring real and perceived water competency. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 6(2), 122-135.

Moran, K. (2008). Will they sink or swim? New Zealand youth water safety knowledge and skills. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 2(2), 114-127.

Moran, K. (2008). Youth aquatic recreation: The pleasures and pitfalls of an aquatic lifestyle in New Zealand. In N.P. Beaulieu (Ed.), Physical activity and children: New research (pp. 35–63). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.

Moran, K. (2009). Parent/caregiver perception and practice of child water safety at the beach. International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion, 16(4), 215-221. doi: 10.1080/17457300903307045

Moran, K. (2009). Parents, pals, or pedagogues? How youth learn about water safety. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 3(2), 121-134

Moran, K., & Stanley T. (2006). Toddler drowning prevention: Teaching parents about water safety in conjunction with their child’s in-water lessons. International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion, 13(4), 254-256.

Morrongiello, B.A, Sandomierski, M., & Spence, J. R. (2013). Changes over swim lessons in parents’ perceptions of children’s supervision needs in drowning risk situations: “His swimming has improved so now he can keep himself safe.Health Psychology 32(9), 1-8. doi: 10.1037/a0033881

Ramos, W., Beale, A., Chamber, P., Dalke, S., Fielding, R., Kublick, L, … Wernicki, P. (2015). Primary and secondary drowning interventions: The American Red Cross circle of drowning prevention and chain of drowning survival, International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 9, 89-101. doi: 10.1123/ijare.2014-0045

Sbarbaro, V. S., & Enyeart Smith, T. M. (2011). An analysis of water safety behaviors among migrant and economically/educationally disadvantage middle school students. The Health Educator, 43(1), 21-28.

Stallman, R. K., Junge, M., & Blixt, T. (2008). The teaching of swimming based on a model derived from the cause of drowning.  International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 2(4), 372-382.

Yang, L., Nong, Q.M., Li, C., Feng, Q.M., Lo, & S.K. (2007). Risk factors for childhood drowning in rural regions of a developing country; A case-control study. Injury Prevention, 13(3), 178-182. doi: 10.1136/ip.2006.013409

Swim skills add a layer of protection to prevent drowning incidents.


Formal swimming lessons reduce the risk of drowning among children 1-4 years. This is the only sport that can actually save lives and can also reduce the risk of drowning among older individuals.

Everyone Should Learn To Swim 

Swimming is not an instinctive skill for humans. We can not survive in water unless we are taught how to swim. All adults and children should learn to swim.

Role of Swim Lessons 

Adults should be smart and aware and never consider children have been “drown proofed” because they’ve had swim lessons. Nothing will ever eliminate the risk of drowning because it simply doesn’t discriminate. Even an Olympic swimmer can drown.

When to Start 

Always speak with your pediatrician before considering any water safety/swimming lessons for children. With the right instruction, children can gain skills and a love for the water even at a young age.

The American Academy of Pediatrics updated their policy statement regarding drowning prevention stating that swim lessons are beneficial for children starting around age 1, and may lower drowning rates.

Once parents have decided their child is developmentally ready for swim lessons, they should proceed to look for a program that has experienced, well-trained instructors and fits their budget.

Include Water Safety Education 

Ensure that swim instruction includes water safety and survival education at the appropriate developmental level.

Ideally, programs should teach ‘water competency’ too – the ability to get out of the water if your child ends up in the water unexpectedly.

Selecting a Program 

Check if the instructor is trained in swim instruction, child development, and currently certified in CPR (some are not). Observe classes before enrollment and monitor lessons for safety skills, the effectiveness of the instructor, the child’s reception to learning, and progress. Lessons should be continuous, year-round, not taken for just one season as skills need to be developed and maintained for life.

Even the best swim lessons cannot “drown-proof” a child, and we strongly recommend parents take the necessary steps to make their child’s environment safer. For homes with a pool, the most important safety measure is a 4-sided fence that completely surrounds the pool and isolates it from the house.

More swimmers will result in a healthier society, fewer drownings, and reduced healthcare costs for the country.

post header pool life ring

“Layers of protection” is a term used to define and classify the majority of strategies directly affecting aquatic environments in their quest to prevent childhood drowning.

Drowning remains a significant public health concern as it is the leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for children 1-4 years, the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for children 1-14 years, and is the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for all ages in the United States (CDC, WISQARS, 2005).

Water-related injuries also affect a significant number of American children. It is estimated that as many as twenty percent of drowning victims suffer severe, permanent neurological disability. Knowing what to do in a water emergency, including how to help someone in trouble in the water safely, can help reduce these numbers.

The following layers of protection are intended to minimize injury should a child gain access to the water and are meant to be used immediately in the event of such an emergency.

Telephone  

Emergency pool phone by ePoolphone

Keep a phone poolside (a land line with the pool’s physical address is best) for emergency use so that an adult can call for help if needed. (Calling from a cell phone won’t automatically tell the 911 operator the location.)

Learn CPR 

Learn CPR and rescue breathing

Anyone who lives in a home with a pool should learn CPR and rescue breathing. Ensure that babysitters have current CPR training and certification.  CPR training and certification should be refreshed every one to two years, depending upon the certification agency, or more frequently if there have been recent changes in recommendations.

In a group, such as a pool party, at least one person should know CPR.  Anyone who is the sole supervisor of a child should learn CPR and rescue breathing.

Water Safety and Rescue Course 

Canadian Red Cross Water Safety Course

Pool owners and operators should enroll in a local water safety course that teaches proper rescue techniques. Course should include hands-on practice using a shepherd’s hook and life-saving ring.

Organizations like the American Red Cross offer water safety and rescue courses and certifications.

Rescue Equipment 

Life ring at swimming pool

Keep a life-saving ring and shepherd’s hook at poolside.

CPR instructions should be posted poolside. 

Know how to use the rescue equipment and perform CPR.

Search  

If a child is missing, always check the pool first.  Seconds count. If a child cannot be located immediately, call 9-1-1 and enlist assistance in the search. 

Read the complete Layers of Protection Position Paper for more information on the steps you can take to prevent drowning.

Sign up for the NDPA Newsletter for more information on water safety awareness events, resources and more ways you can contribute to prevent drowning.

what are layers of protection

Drowning has been defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/ immersion in liquid.” The outcome of a drowning incident can be classified as “death,” “morbidity,” and “no morbidity”. The more common terms used in discussions are “fatal” or “nonfatal” drownings.

According to the CDC, drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for children 1-4 years, the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for children 1-14 years, and is the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for all ages in the United States. Water-related injuries also affect a significant number of American children. An estimated twenty percent of drowning victims suffer severe, permanent neurological disability.

Drowning is, however, preventable and the NDPA recognizes that multiple strategies are necessary in order to do so. The term “layers of protection” is one used to classify the majority of strategies directly affecting aquatic environments. Parents, caregivers, residential pool owners, aquatic facility owners, managers and operators should use “layers of protection” to provide a system of increased security to prevent unauthorized access to bodies of water, especially important for children. This means that multiple strategies or devices are used constantly and simultaneously.

“Layers of protection” include:

Supervision

Parents, adults and caregivers must actively supervise children at all times when in or near the water and be fully aware of potential dangers in all environments, such as when visiting other homes, while on vacation, or at public/community pools.

Always designate a water watcher to actively supervise children when in or near water.

Unfortunately, many drowning incidents have occurred when people are solely engaged in swimming or other water play, and adults know children are in the water and those adults are nearby.

Active supervision is the first and most important layer of protection needed to prevent drowning accidents. Always assign a water watcher when kids are in the water who will watch them at all times without any distractions.

Physical Layers

Fences are the first physical line of defense that restrict access to the pool.

Physical layers may also be considered as barriers and constitute the first line of physical defense that restrict unauthorized access to the pool or spa area in its entirety or prevent unauthorized access to the water in the pool or spa.

Bear in mind that barriers are not child proof, but they do provide layers of protection for a child when there is a lapse in adult supervision. Barriers give parents additional time to find a child before the unexpected can occur. (USCPSC).

Physical layers that limit access to the pool or spa area:

  • Fences, 
  • Gates 
  • Latches 
  • House doors 
Pool safety cover
Pool safety cover

Physical layers that restrict access to the water include:

  • Pool and spa safety covers (power-operated, semi-automatic or manual)
  • Pool safety nets
  • Winter safety covers

Learn to Swim

Swimming lessons should be considered an additional layer of protection needed to prevent drowning accidents. Surviving in the water becomes increasingly difficult without this life-saving skill. According to the CDC, formal swimming lessons can reduce the chances of drowning by 88 percent.

Image: Northern Beaches Council

When selecting a swimming class for your child, ensure it includes water safety and survival education at the appropriate developmental level.

Other than the layers listed above, there are additional layers needed in case an emergency should occur that include learning CPR, first aid and rescue knowledge.

Alarms

Alarms are an important addition to creating a safer environment. 

They can be added to windows, doors, gates and the pool to alert an adult when a barrier has been breached. While the primary goal of layers of protection is to prevent unauthorized access to the water, alarms are important to alert adults if access to the water has been made.  

Alarms can be your last line of defense and allow adults to respond to an emergency quicker.

Active adult supervision and pool barriers are two key layers of protection against child drowning and must always be present, but be aware that not even the most diligent parent or caregiver can actively supervise a child 24/7. Barriers can be breached which is why the NDPA urges using multiple strategies and devices simultaneously to help prevent injuries and deaths from drowning. 

Each additional layer or strategy beyond the first could be the one that saves a life so be sure to use as many as possible at all times.

For more detailed information, read our complete position paper here.