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Water Watchers Program

Drowning accidents are the leading cause of injury and deaths among children under five. A temporary lapse in supervision is a common factor in most drownings and near-drownings. Child drownings can happen in seconds--in the time it takes to look away from the pool briefly.  There is often no splashing or other warnings of trouble. Children can drown in small quantities (3 inches!) of water and are at risk from wading pools, bathtubs, buckets, diaper pails, and toilets as well as swimming pools, spas, and hot tubs.

Swim lessons teach children and adults  to be water-aware and engage in safe activities in and out of the water.  Register for swim lessons offered by the city’s Parks & Recreation department at the Monroe Street Pool. Register for swim lessons.


Water Watcher's Public Service Announcement

Death and injuries

A swimming pool is 14 times more likely than a motor vehicle to be involved in the death of children age 4 and under. Each year, approximately 1,150 children ages 14 and under drown; more than half of whom are preschoolers. In the United States, an estimated 5,000 children annually are hospitalized due to near-drownings. Of children surviving near-drownings, 5-20 percent suffer disability.


Approximately 50 percent of preschooler drownings occur in residential swimming pools.  Each year, more than 2,000 preschooler near-drownings occur in residential pools. Of preschooler pool drownings, 65 percent occur in the child's home pool and 33 percent at the homes of friends, neighbors or relatives.

Bathtubs and buckets

Each year, 350 drownings (for all ages) happen in bathtubs, and approximately 40 children drown in five-gallon buckets. In 10 states:  Drowning surpasses all other causes of death to children ages 14 and under in Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington. 

How and when drownings happen

Of all preschoolers who drown, 70 percent are in the care of one of both parents at the time of the drowning; 75 percent are missing from sight for five minutes or less.
Two-thirds of all drownings happen between May and August with 40 percent occurring on weekends.

There is no substitute for adult supervision, safeguards and barriers around pools and hot tubs to provide protection for children.  For example, use of pool fencing would prevent 50-90 percent of childhood pool drownings and near-drownings.

Children drown during routine household activities, with adults present and providing normal levels of supervision. Most drowned or nearly drowned children were last seen in the house, away from the pool or spa. Parents say that the day of the tragedy started out just like any other day. No matter how or where the drowning happened -- pool, spa, or any other body of water -- one thing was the same, the seconds that claimed their child's life slid by silently, without warning.

  • Install warning alarms on doors and windows leading to the water.
  • Install a non-climbable, five-foot fence that separates the pool/spa from the residence. Fence slat openings should be no more than four inches wide so children cannot squeeze through the spaces.
  • Install self-closing and self-latching gates and doors leading to the pool/spa with latches above a child's reach. Gates should open outward.
  • Install a pool safety cover (power operated are the safest and easiest to use).
  • Pool and spa owners should take the practical steps above to make their pool and spa less dangerous.

No safety feature can replace proper supervision. Water is a magnet for children. Young children, often have no fear of water and no concept of death. They associate water with play not with danger. Adults must establish, communicate and enforce rules and take responsibility for child safety.

Assign an adult "water watcher" to supervise the pool/spa area or any other body of water, especially during social gatherings. Assign a second adult to maintain constant visual contact with children in the pool/spa area or any body of water that might attract a child. Never assume someone else is watching a child.

Never leave a child alone near a pool/spa, bathtub, toilet, water filled bucket, pond or any standing body of water in which a child's nose and mouth may be submersed. Don't rely on swimming lessons, a life preserver, or any other equipment to keep a child safe. Twenty-five percent of all childhood victims have had swimming lessons.

Don't allow children to play in the pool/spa area and never keep toys around or in a pool.

Look in the pool area first if a child is missing.

Communicate pool safety measures with the baby-sitter and train the sitter in CPR.

  • Insist that everyone in the household, using the pool/spa and is over 14 years of age, be certified for infant/child safety and CPR.
  • Communicate pool safety measures with the baby-sitter and train the sitter on infant/child CPR.
  • Adults should learn how to swim and administer rescue techniques.
  • Mount rescue equipment by the pool such as a lifesaving ring, shepherd's hook and a CPR sign.
  • A posted sign should provide rules for pool/spa use and end with the phone number for the Fire Department’s medical rescue phone number, 9-1-1
  • Install a phone near the water area.