Man helping young boy float in swimming pool

With summer in full swing and the Fourth of July just around the corner, families will head to the pools, lakes, and beaches. While these activities offer fun and relief from the heat, implementing water safety measures can prevent avoidable tragedies.

Drowning is the leading cause of death for children aged 1–4, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. For children aged 5–14, it’s the second leading cause of unintentional injury death, following motor vehicle crashes. To combat this, parents and guardians need to be vigilant and learn the fundamental principles of water safety. These principles, often summarized as the ABCs of water safety, provide a straightforward and easy-to-remember guide to keeping children safe around water.

Michelle Parker, coordinator of Safe Kids Inland Empire, walks us through the ABCs of water safety.

A: Adult Supervision

Children should never be left unattended near water, even for a moment. It's essential to designate a "water watcher," an adult whose sole responsibility is to monitor the children in and around the water without distractions such as phones or conversations. This role should be assigned and passed between adults every 30 minutes to maintain fresh, undistracted oversight.

"Water-related accidents happen quickly and quietly," Parker said. "It only takes a few seconds for a child to drown in just enough water to cover their nose and mouth.

Adult supervision is non-negotiable when it comes to water safety."

B: Barriers

Barriers are physical structures that prevent children from accessing water unsupervised. Installing fences around pools with self-closing and self-latching gates can significantly reduce the risk of accidental drownings.

Parker suggests keeping furniture away from gates to prevent children from climbing over them and recommends additional measures like door alarms, pool alarms, and covers to delay a child's access to water, giving adults time to intervene.

C: Classes

Enrolling children in swimming lessons at an early age can equip them with essential survival skills in the water, like rolling onto their backs and swimming to the edge of the pool. Parents and caregivers should also take CPR and first aid classes to be prepared in an emergency.

Additional Tips for Water Safety

• Use Life Jackets: Ensure children wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets. Parker says to have children practice in a controlled environment to familiarize them with their use before going to natural bodies of water.

• Teach Water Safety Rules: Ensure children understand the importance of not swimming alone and recognizing dangerous water conditions.

• Be Weather-Aware: Monitor weather conditions, as storms and lightning can pose serious risks when in or near water.

By adhering to the ABCs of water safety—Adult Supervision, Barriers, and Classes—parents and guardians can help prevent tragic accidents and ensure children have a fun and safe summer.