Drowning Prevention

Most drownings involving young children occur in residential settings. Children under the age of five years do not struggle in the water. They can drown without making a sound.

To learn more about our initiatives and partners, click here.

Drowning Prevention Tips at Home, Pool, or Other Sites:

  • Learn to swim yourself and have your child learn to swim. Learn life-saving skills, including swimming basics and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • Be prepared. Have rescue equipment at home, post 9-1-1 emergency information, and think through an emergency action plan.
  • Never leave a child unsupervised in a bathtub, even for a second. Most siblings are not old enough to properly supervise a young child in this situation.
  • Never leave a child alone near a pool/spa, toilet, water-filled bucket, pond, or any standing body of water.
  • Empty all tubs, buckets, containers and kiddie pools immediately after use. Store them upside down so they don’t collect water.
  • upside down so they don’t collect water.
  • Close toilet lids and use toilet seat locks to prevent drowning. Keep doors to bathrooms and laundry rooms closed.
  • Make sure kids learn these five water survival skills and that they are able to:
    • step or jump into water over their heads and return to the surface;
    • float or tread water for one minute;
    • turn around in a full circle and find an exit;
    • swim 25 yards to exit the water; and
    • exit the water. If in a pool, be able to exit without using the ladder
  • Teach children that swimming in open water is not the same as swimming in a pool. They need to be aware of uneven surfaces, river currents, ocean undertow and changing weather.
  • An unclimbable, five-foot fence should separate the pool/spa from the residence. Fence openings should be no more than four inches wide so children cannot squeeze through the spaces.
  • The fence gate should be self-closing and selflatching with latches above a child’s reach.
  • Never rely on flotation devices or swimming lessons to protect a child.
  • Don’t allow children to play in the pool/spa area. Never keep toys around or in a pool.
  • Avoid swimming after dark.
  • Risk for drowning increases in muddy water of lakes, ponds, and rivers.
  • Avoid weak or thawing ice on any body of water.
  • Diving into shallow water can cause spinal injuries. Never allow diving in above-ground pools, shallow water, or unknown areas.
  • Be aware of local weather conditions prior to engaging in recreational water activities.
  • Use the buddy system when swimming or boating.
  • Require all persons to wear Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices when involved in water-related recreational activities, regardless of swimming ability.
  • Avoid using alcohol or other drugs prior to and during recreational water activities.
  • Assign an adult to be a “Water Watcher” who is responsible for actively supervising children in and around water even if a lifeguard is present.

For more information, please visit the following websites:

For more information about child drowning deaths, visit https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/content/uploads/sites/18/2021/10/2019-Drowning-Report.pdf

Developed through the collaborative partnership with the VDH Office of Environmental Health and Environmental Epidemiology, learn more:

About learning lifesaving skills in the water by visiting here: https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-health/environmental-health-services/swim-healthy/learn-lifesaving-skills/

About drowning by visiting here:  https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-health/environmental-health-services/swim-healthy/draft-drowning-prevention/

About VDH’s Healthy Swimming Week 2022 by visiting here: https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-health/healthy-and-safe-swimming-summer-2022-toolkit/

To learn more about the Consumer Product Safety Commission “Pool Safely” campaign, visit https://www.poolsafely.gov/

To order “Pool Safely” materials, visit https://www.poolsafely.gov/educational-materials-catalog/

Download the printable Drowning Prevention Tip Card