Child Drowning Prevention

According to The US Center for Disease Control on average, 356 people died from pool-related accidental drowning in 2014-2016, and almost 6,000 people per/year were treated by emergency personnel and hospitals. Drowning is the number 1 cause of unintentional death for children between the ages of 1-4 years old and most involving an Inground Pool. What key reasons should Pool Owners be aware of when it comes to Child Drowning Prevention?

  • Flat Drain Covers
  • Lack Of Swimming Skills
  • Lack of Fencing, high Latching Gates, & Pool Alarms.
  • No Water competency & CPR Training
  • Alcohol in the Pool area
  • Lack of Anti-Slip Mats, Safety Nets & Tie-Off Ropes
  • Inadequate Supervision
  • No childproof pool cover

Approximately 192 averaged unintentional drownings happened in Inground Pools every year. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries. If you have an Inground Pool and have kids or don’t have kids, you need to read this article.


Childhood Drowning

To narrow this down all you have to do is look at the numbers. The sad thing about this is the Center For Disease Controls says that most deaths can be prevented by training that doesn’t come with your swimming pool when you have one put in at your home, or buy a new home that already has one. From 2005-2014 In the United States 10 people per/day drown in swimming pools.

  • 77 % of these incidents involve children under the age of 5 years with death normally occuring on the same day or within a week of the incident.
  • African American children between the ages of 5-19 are 5.5 more times to drown than white children the same age.
  • The incidents involve children 0-14 years old- Males are 68%- Females- 32% of the time.
  • Children’s deaths are the highest in warm weather months from May through August
  • 74% of the deaths of the children younger than 15 happen at a residence.
  • 54% of drownings happen in an Inground Pool
  • 5,900 are the average amount of emergency pool and spa drowning-related -injuries treated annually from 2014-2016.

  • By year- under 5 years old                                                       Where Do Injuries Occurr
  • 2016-4200                                                                       Residential Family Friends or Neighbor’s Home- 48%
  • 2015-4600                                                                      Public Pool or Spa-Condo or Apartment Complex- 20%
  • 2014-4400                                                                                           Location is not reported                      32%
  • By Age
  • < 1 years old-    2%                                                                                
  • 1 To 3 years old-  62%                                                                      
  • 4 years old –  11%                                                                    
  • 5 To 9 years old  –20%
  • 10 to 14 years old –16%
  • By Gender
  • 0-4 Boys 57% -Girls 43%
  • 0-14 Boys 60%
  • Girls 40%

Causes of Drowning

There are various factors that can be attributed to the lack of swimming skills. Researchers know that children who receive some kind of swimming instruction no matter how old, have a better chance than a child that does not. Others factors that can influence the risk of unintentional drowning are barriers like fencing around the pool or roping that marks the shallow end of an Inground Pool from the Deeper end.

According to National Statistics, 77 % of children involved in unintentional drowning had been missing for no more than 5 minutes when they were found in the pool. 70 % weren’t expected to be in or even near the pool at the time but this lack of supervision qualified as a factor, especially with children who are slightly disabled and suffered from Seizure disorders and needed to be watched. Alcohol is another constant in the event more than 70 % of drownings have alcohol as some kind of contributing factor.

Being an Inground Pool Owner and raising 5 children one of the things that scared me especially in a deep pool (mine was 10 foot at the deep end) was Circulation Entrapment Injury.

Circulation Entrapment is a fancy term for when a swimmer is trapped by suction generated by water rushing out of the drain of a pool, hot tub or spa. These injuries happen when a swimmer gets hair, jewelry, accessories or even a limb stuck.

Sadly, circulation entrapment is most common among young swimmers, who generally lack the physical strength to free themselves from the suction, leading to injuries and sometimes even death.

According to statistics

  • Between 2009 and 2013 there were 33 instances of circulation entrapment.
  • Swimmers suffered injuries in 85 percent (or 28 people) of those instances of circulation entrapment.
  • Of those victims, 21 were children who were 15 or younger.
  • 45 percent of the reported circulation entrapment injuries happened in a pool
  • 33 percent happened in a spa.
  • 21 percent happened in a whirlpool tub.
  • Overall, 64 percent of the circulation entrapments occurred in public places.

 Pool Safety Act

All the swimming lessons in the world wouldn’t help a child who is being held underwater in a pool or a spa by the suction drains at the bottom. The vacuum effect in some is strong enough to hold a grown man down never mind a small child.

A flat pool drain under suction to human skin can create 100’s of pounds of suction.

Speaking before Congress in 2007 victims and advocates came to Capitol Hill to tell their stories so that laws could be changed, families of victims testified so that the government could affect the way some Hotel and Public pools could make things safer. There were some extremely troubling detailed stories that people were able to tell after these tragedies touched them and their families.

It one horrific instance 4 adult men couldn’t pull a young girl from the bottom of a hotel pool where she succumbed to drowning. The statistics of Circulation Entrapment could be much higher than are reported because the end result is the victim dies from drowning which is listed as the cause of death.

There were many people that testified before Congress like Nancy Baker who was the daughter of Secretary of State James Baker. She lost her daughter to Circulation Entrapment in 2002 when Virginia died in her mother’s arms at the bottom of a public swimming pool. “I kept pulling at her and couldn’t understand what was holding her down. Said, Nancy Baker. “I open my eyes underwater and there isn’t any way to try and describe what this was like.”

“I really wish this was not my daughter but when she died it went from the back of the newspaper to the front”


In 2007 Congress did pass a law in a rare bipartisan vote called The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Saftey Act. This Act provides a new set of Standards for Basic Drain Saftey. According to US Law, all Public and Hotel Pools across the country must install safety drain covers and shut-off valves designed to prevent children from being trapped underwater by the powerful suction coming from pool filtering systems.

Although people worked in support of the law and getting it to pass most states have done nothing to enforce what was needed to be done. NBC News did investigative Reports and checked 23 large Hotel Pools from the West to the East Coast and found that 16 out of the 23 Public pools would not be compliant.

In fact, numerous safety violations were found in almost all the Hotels they found around the country. ABC News start going to more pool and even municipal pools and Spa and found very dangerous situations that far outweighs the drain covers that were the original safety concern.

To simplify The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Saftey Act is that most hotels have suction drains located on the bottom of the deep end of the swimming pool and in some instance in their Spas.

The suction drains all have some sort of cover. Some covers are deemed unsafe. Most covers are Flat and they are deemed very dangerous. Flat Suction Drain covers threaten death and Injury in 2 ways.

  • They make it easy for swimmers to have their hair or fingers sucked into the drain.
  • If the surface of a flat drain is covered completely by a swimmer or an object than the result would be a debilitating suction effect that will trap swimmers in the Drain itself.

The Graeme Baker Ast requires all Public accessed Swimming Pools and Spas be outfitted with a Dome Drain Cover or a very large Drain Cover that will resolve the whole problem. It’s an easy fix for such a huge deadly problem. Even private Inground pools should have it done if you don’t then you might be playing with fire.


Drowning Prevention

Lifebuoy Pool Alarm System  Pool Motion Sensors – with a Smart Pool Alarm That is Application Controlled. Powerful Sirens Blare at Poolside and Indoors. Lifebuoy alarm triggers powerful sirens at the poolside and inside the house whenever a person or a pet accidentally falls into the pool. The innovative system helps pool owners monitor what is happening in the pool around the clock. Lifebuoy alarm meets the most stringent international safety standards. This is a powerful tool if you have kids or pets. you can Find It here at MyWaterEarth&Sky on our Recommended Products Page.

Safety is the responsibility of you,  the Pool owner. There are some things that can be overlooked and there are others that can’t. Fencing is one that is by law warranted and demanded but different from state to state. How high, materials needed,  gates, and other specifics are mandated by zoning laws throughout the country.

Whatever the restrictions or requirements, the fence, and the gate should keep unsupervised children out of the pool area since children are particularly susceptible to drowning in residential pools. To do just enough that’s required by law in your neighborhood just doesn’t cut it anymore. There is also mandated signs that need to be displayed on your property that go along with the type of Fence you need. Liability can be greatly reduced just by a few things that may seem frivolous but are not.

They may not absolve you completely of liability from owning an Inground pool but they may show that you are concerned and take precautions and may even save a kid’s life. Just for that reason its worth every dime you spend and every hour you miss on Saturdays making an attempt. Hopefully, you will never know whether it was worth it or not.  State By State Pool Signs and Fencing requirements can be found here. All this information is easily attainable on the internet.

The Gate should be self-latching and high enough out of reach of children so even if the pool is open and the gate is unlocked they still have a hard time getting into the pool. Another way to reduce any risk is to remove any floatable toys that are covering the surface of the pool that may entice a small child to get into the pool area or cover them if they are in the water. It’s a simple practice that I used to do. I would tell the kids to put everything away so I can put the chemicals in the pool that night. If in fact someone or something was in the water you could spot it yards away at a distance because it would stand out.

Pool alarms like the one I included up top in the video can alarm the pool owner if the surface of the pool water is disturbed or the gate is opened. This is an incredible tool that is surprisingly inexpensive that can save the life of a child or a pet. We had a Landline Telephone at the pool that was installed years ago for the reason that you would expect. In case you forgot your cell phone then communication is right there at the pool. During the summer months, it’s wired up then shut down in the fall. It was incredibly cheap and we never had to use it. Thank God.

Having someone that knows CPR in the family is a plus and they can teach others in the family or even neighbors. Knowing CPR for Adults and Toddlers just makes too much sense.  Creating a safe surface around the pool area that is safe for children and adults can prevent accidents from happening around the hard concrete area around the pool. there are Paints to cover the surface around the pool that is slip-resistant and will do the job easily.

Or Anti-Slip Mats that run the length of the walkway around the pool that you can move in areas with the most traffic. These work well for children’s Pool Parties where one side of the Inground Pool might get more traffic than the other.

Keep a Nylon Tie off rope with buoys that runs across your Inground pool and keeps smaller kids from crossing over into the deeper end of the pool. It’s cheap, simple and sometimes can be a pain in the neck but it can help you keep control of a bunch of kids even when you are there counting heads and listening to a baseball game. I don’t have to tell you not do not swim while using alcohol or drugs especially watching children who are susceptible to being a statistic in an article like this one right? Everyone knows or has heard it a thousand times that a great swimmer should never swim alone. There are just too many things that can happen, so I’ll say it one more time Don’t swim alone in any pool.

Lots of kids doing this when playing games in the pool like Marco Polo. Just be aware that it can happen while under your supervision.  Don’t let swimmers hyperventilate before swimming underwater or try to hold their breath for long periods of time. This can cause them to pass out (sometimes called “hypoxic blackout” or “shallow water blackout”) and drown.

Drowning Prevention Tips

Having been a pool owner all my life, we set up rules as we went along and followed others from Public pools we visited. There are universal laws that seem to apply to everyone when it comes to pool rules and regulations. When parents and kids are engaged in fun and the pool is filled on a Sunday afternoon there nothing quite like it. There are a few things that you can do to keep safe. Most of the rule my family had were just common sense. Like:


Watch all children and adolescents swimming or playing in or around water, even if they know how to swim. Kids that don’t swim need to be in the shallow side of the pool. The toddlers need to be within reach of an adult at all times. According to Water Safety USA, Most child drownings happen when there is poor or no supervision in the pool. Drownings can happen quickly and quietly.

Drownings happen even if there is a lifeguard on duty in Public Pools. A misconception that most parents have is that if their child is having a problem in a Pool and they are in the Pool with them, they would hear them call for help. The reality is that most drownings are silent and can have very little splashing, waving or screaming. Most researchers who study pool safety say that some parent can overestimate their child’s ability to be able to swim.

They realize that it’s a challenge for some parents to constantly keep their eyes on their child in and around the pool but there are times when it is absolutely necessary. Infants and young toddlers are more dependent than older children and can drown in very little water in a matter of minutes. Infants and Toddlers are “head heavy” meaning that their heads are disproportionately larger than the rest of their bodies. This makes it harder for them to right themselves. This the reason that its always recommended that toddlers and infants are always within arms-distance of whoever is watching them in the pool.

Water Safety Education

In recent years water experts have questioned whether a swim lesson was adequate enough for a youngster to deal with situations when they are in danger of drowning.  If a child falls in the water unexpectedly and is in danger of drowning, are the swim lessons they paid for is enough to keep them safe from drowning as so many of them do.  They have come up with a concept called Water Competency that describes Water Survival Skills needed to escape the event.

What water experts learned from parents they interviewed was that most parents thought that the child was safe if the child took swim lessons. They were satisfied that if they had some instruction on how to take strokes and keep afloat in the pool which the experts said wasn’t completely wrong that it would be enough.

What the experts in Pool Safety were looking for was a way for the child to get out of the pool in a drowning type of situation. What they found was that adults couldn’t perform what they considered as basic water skills for adults and children. The Basic Steps of Water Competency  which are:

  1.  Step or Jump into the Pool Water Over Your Head
  2. Return to the Surface and Float-or Tread Water For 1 Minute
  3. Turn Around In a Full Circle and Find an Exit.
  4. Swim 25 Yards To The Exit-then
  5. Exit From The Pool Without Using a Ladder

What the Experts found that even people ( adults adolescences and parents who thought that they were good swimmers couldn’t perform these 5 Water Survivor Skills that according to the Red Cross were necessary to teach children because of new updated information about how and who and why so many children die by drowning. Water competency is another layer of protection to protect the ones we love from a tragic event. The safety layer all start with the responsibility of the pool owners as parents and grand-parents to guard against what can happen to an irresponsible adult who provides half of the whats is provided to him/her.

Signs of Drowning

When a child only has seconds to live how do you recognize them in a pool full of people splashing around and having fun. Sometimes the child won’t verbally tell you or anyone. The child or adult will give off physical signs of trouble.

  • Silence-when a child or an adult is drowning they won’t be screaming and yelling they will be hyperventilating and gasping for breath
  • They will be tilting their head back instinctively trying to get a breath and keeping their airway clear. Their body may be in a verticle position and water will be covering their face.
  • Their Arms will be moving downward this from panic. They will be trying to get a hold of something that’s not there anything to push themselves up and out of the pool water. It looks like a child that pushes up off his desk trying to get out of their chair to stand up.
  • Floating down-Face Down is an indication the child is in bad trouble. If the child’s body is horizontal be concerned. Also, watch out for the kid that jumps down into the pool and floats up horizontal or the child that doesn’t come back up.
  • Wall clawing is a child who is clinging to a wall or a flotation device may be a child who is too tired to swim and is in trouble.
  • Isolated- any time a child is alone out of arms reach of an adult.
  • If a child is bobbing and moving but making no progress then they might be trouble but can’t communicate with anyone in the pool.

Even when the pool is full and the kids are splashing around and the music is blaring try and make visual contact with all the kids in the pool and use these visual actions to determine that everyone is safe. Everyone, even adults should always swim with some general supervision or a buddy.  Children without basic swimming skills should be directly supervised and within arm’s reach. Everyone should learn CPR and The Basic Steps of Water Competency. 

Knowledgeable, attentive, supervision of all swimmers is important for drowning prevention, particularly for toddlers and children, even when the child is known as a great swimmer. Supervision must be provided by a responsible person.

Parents should teach kids right from the beginning how important it is to watch others in case they have a problem. Moms and Dads should stay alert, not distracted (reading, using a smart device or phone), not using alcohol or drugs, and focused on those near or in the water. Don’t let your child be a statistic in next years report. Have Fun and Be Well!

Jim has over 30 years in Water/Wastewater & Water Filtration/Pool Business & owner. He has written over 300 articles on the Worldwide Water Situation. Raised 5 kids with a 10 ft. deep Inground Pool


Author/Editor, MyWaterEarth&Sky

References: The Center For disease Control-Unintentional Drowning

ABC News Investigates-She died in my Arms: A Mothers Mission For Safe Pools

Related Questions:

How much does a pool alarm cost?

The pool alarms that were sold on Amazon were pretty inexpensive especially for what they do. They can alarm the pool water to a pet or a child won’t fall without alarming the pool owners much the way a fire alarm would work all for a couple of hundred dollars

 Are above ground pools safe?

There is an illusion of greater safety with above the ground pools, mainly due to the fact that it is ‘above the ground’, however, anybody of water poses a risk of drowning. Any above ground pool safety blog will focus on 3 things: Ladders, Fencing & Gates, and Pool Alarms

 How do I make my pool safe?

Build a pool fence.
Install an alarm system.
Ditch the diving board.
Have rescue equipment.
Inspect the pool area daily.
Store chemicals safely.
Inspect drain covers.
Learn CPR.









Recent Posts