Water Safety &
Supervision Training:
Preventing Drowning in Child Care

Workshop Information & Schedule

Drowning Prevention

Is this really such a huge problem?

  • Drowning is the second leading cause of death in children ages 1-14 in the United States. However, in New Hampshire, drowning is tied for #1, as the leading cause of death in children ages 1-14. It is tied with motor vehicle traffic deaths. (Source: CDC 2003 statistics, released Fall 2005)
  • For each drowning death, it is estimated that at least 1 to 4 children suffer a serious nonfatal submersion event, many of which leave children with permanent disabilities. (Source: Pediatrics , Vol. 112 No. 2, August 2003, pp. 440-445, Prevention of Drowning in Infants, Children, and Adolescents, Ruth A. Brenner, MD, MPH and Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention)
  • 1 in 5 parents mistakenly think air-filled water wings can protect their child from drowning. (Source: KidsHealth/The Nemours Foundation, June 2004, Most Kids Who Drowned Were Supervised, Study Finds)
  • Young children can drown in as little as 1 inch of water. That means drowning can happen where you'd least expect it - the sink, the toilet bowl, fountains, buckets, pet bowls, birdbaths, wading pools, or small bodies of standing water around your home, such as ditches filled with rainwater. (Source: KidsHealth/The Nemours Foundation, June 2004, Most Kids Who Drowned Were Supervised, Study Finds)


How are children drowning?

  • Silently. Contrary to popular notion, most drownings do not involve loud thrashing or verbalization of distress. Prevention is key to decreasing drowning.
  • In 5-gallon buckets. Toddlers naturally like to explore. They are mobile and get away from the watchful eyes of adults quickly. They are top-heavy. They tend to fall forward. They don't have enough muscles to pull themselves out of a five gallon bucket or a toilet.
  • Falling out of a lifejacket. A U.S. Coast Guard approved personal floatation device is never a substitute for knowing how to swim. (NSC Family Safety & Health Pool and Beach Safety)
  • In less than 30 feet from help. 90% of drowning deaths occur within 10 yards of safety.

    Sequence of Events During Submersion while Swimming

    1. Contrary to popular opinion, the victim does not wave or call for help. Breathing instinctively takes precedence.

    2. Sometimes the victim obtains an upright posture, with their arms extended laterally, thrashing and slapping the water. When this happens it is often mistaken for playing and splashing in the water.
    3. Next the head submerges and surfaces several times during the victim's struggle for air. In children this can last for up to 10 seconds. An adult may be able to struggle for up to 60 seconds.
    4. Inhalation is prevented only by the involuntary closure of the glottis. Soon after, involuntary gasping occurs for several minutes.
    5. At this point there is swallowing of large amounts of water into the stomach.
    6. Consciousness is lost within 3 minutes. Water is now able to passively enter the lungs.
    7. Finally, cardiac arrythmias, convulsions, spasmodic efforts, and death occur.

What can we do?

  • The most important component of preventing drownings is constant supervision.
  • Adults can offer non-swimming water activities.
  • Empty buckets, pails, and bathtubs completely after each use.
  • Never leave children alone around any water.
  • Cover and lock the hot tub, spa, whirlpool or fence it in like a pool.
  • Adults supervising children in the water need to be able to scan the supervised area within 10 seconds and reach a person in distress within 20 seconds.
  • Think through an emergency action plan before it is needed.
  • Preschool children can be enrolled in swim classes, but no amount of instruction makes a child "drown-proof."
  • Never leave a baby in the tub even for a second. Children drown with the seats and rings quickly and silently. Most siblings are not old enough to properly supervise a young child in this situation.
  • Keep the toilet seat cover down. Consider putting a latch on the bathroom door high enough to be out of reach of an interested infant and toddler.
  • Do not leave containers in the yard where they may collect water and attract a child.
  • Learn CPR.
  • Plan ahead. Before waterplay, think about what might call you away. The phone, needing a towel, front door bell, getting a Band-Aid.
  • Turn on the answering machine or bring a cordless phone
  • Bring all needed items, sunscreen, towels, first aid kit
  • Tape a sign to the front door letting parents know you are out back with the children
  • Even good planning can't account for every situation. If you need to leave the water play area, EVEN FOR A FEW SECONDS, take the children with you.
  • If you choose to use a pool with children, remind children of the rules each time you use the area.
    "I need you to walk inside the pool area. Running isn't safe in there."
    "Diving needs extra adults. I need you to jump or walk into the pool unless an adult is ready to watch you dive."
    "Even though there is lots of water in the pool, using it like a toilet can make people very sick. If you need to use the bathroom, can tell me right away."
  • Remember, diving into shallow water causes spinal injuries. Never allow diving in above ground pools, shallow water, or unknown areas.
  • Because of diapers and dirty bottoms, fecal matter may be introduced into pools. Due to the huge health risks associated with human waste, it is better to use sprinklers, water tables, or hoses with young children. If you do allow swimming, toddlers should wear swim diapers that will contain feces and urine. [In June 1998, it is believed that a sick child with diarrhea at an Atlanta water park caused an E. coli outbreak. 26 people, 12 of whom were children, were contaminated and one child died.]

What to do when seeing a child in trouble.

1. Get the child out of the water.
If you are unable to safely pull the child from the water, throw a floating object, life jacket, kick board, even an empty jug. If the child is unreachable, help use a pole, ring buoy, or even a tree branch.
If you have to enter the water, bring something that floats. Keep it between you and the child. Many victims have drown their rescuer.

2. Start checking the A,B,C's (airway, breathing, circulation).
3. Have someone call 911.

In addition to swimming pools and beaches, children drown in,

  • bathtubs and toilets
  • buckets and pails, especially 5-gallon buckets and diaper pails
  • ice chests with melted ice
  • irrigation ditches, post holes, and wells
  • hot tubs, spas, and whirlpools
  • fish tanks
  • fish ponds, landscape ponds, and fountains
  • floating pool covers filled with water or preventing a child from surfacing after being submerged

"Slip! Slop! Slap!" Sun damage is permanent and cumulative.

1. First, slip on a shirt, preferably made with tightly woven material.
2. Next, 20 minutes before going outside, use sun screen with at least SPF of 15 for children 6 months and older.
3. Finally, slap on a hat. A hat with a broad rim to cover face, ears, and neck from the sun.


Supervising Children in the Water

1. Don't talk to others. It is too easy to be distracted.
2. Constantly scan the water.
3. Check every face every 10 seconds.
4. Be able to reach every child within 20 seconds.
5. Call for backup if you are unable to devote 100% of your attention on the children.
6. Tell swimmers to let you know immediately if someone might need help.
7. Have throwing devices, reaching devices, a first aid kit, and signaling devices close at hand.
8. Think ahead.
9. Be mindful of double drownings.


7 Step - Aquatic Quick Check

1. You are easily identifiable to the children in your group and other adults.
2. You are ready to launch a rescue - swimsuit, whistle, reaching/throwing device in hand, first aid kit & (cell) phone available.
3. You are positioned to see the entire area of responsibility - including every child in your group & the pool bottom.
4. You are alert, actively scanning every child in your group every 10 seconds - no conversations or additional activities.
5. You are able to reach any child in your group within 20 seconds.
6. You are exhibiting professional demeanor in posture, behavior, and attentiveness.
7. The aquatic environment is well maintained, safety line is in place, safety equipment is easily available & in good condition, paperwork for each child is readily obtainable.


This workshop is provided with funding from DCYF / Child Development Bureau

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