Summer Pool Safety: Provide Layers of Protection to Keep Your Child Safe

By Gayle Whitworth, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent, University of Florida, Brevard County
Reviewed by Suzanna Smith, PhD, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, University of Florida
This post is honor of National Water Safety Month.

The weather is warming up, and around the country (especially in Florida!) it’s getting to be swimming pool weather. Families nationwide get a lot of pleasure, recreation, and exercise from their time in backyard and community swimming pools.

However, we always need to be aware of the dangers that pools can pose, especially to children. Sadly, drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages one to five years, and the second leading cause of death for children ages 5 to 15 years. Florida leads the nation in drowning deaths for children ages one to five years, with rates 300% higher than the national average. More than 80% of drowning deaths for children under the age of 15 occur in pools. For every pool drowning, four non-fatal drowning incidents occur, with 20% of survivors experiencing severe and permanent neurological disabilities. Parents and caregivers may not realize that a child can drown in less than two minutes, or that they may not hear a child fall in a pool because there usually is no splash or scream.

No single device or solution can prevent child drowning, although attentive supervision is the most important force against drowning. Children need to be wrapped in “layers of protection,” according to the Florida Department of Health. Much like they would be wrapped in layers to protect them from the cold, “layers” of supervision, education, and safety equipment and devices can help to keep children safe around swimming pools.

Supervision: Stay Close, Be Alert, Watch Children

The first and most important layer is supervision from a fully attentive adult. Children should never be left unattended in a pool or spa, and younger children must also be supervised in or excluded from any area with pool access. Parents need to communicate about who is supervising swimming children, and there should always be a designated “Water Watcher” (or two or more!) around the pool, especially during social events such as pool parties. A “Water Watcher” is an adult whose duty it is to keep visual contact with and supervise swimming children. Water Watchers should not take care of other jobs or socialize during this time. To make things easier, switch off this task every 15 or 30 minutes and use a special “Water Watcher” tag (available online) so people know who has the job. And of course, infants, toddlers, and early swimmers should always have a supervising adult in the water with them, within arm’s reach.

Education: Learn to Swim

Swimming is not an instinctive skill for humans, but clearly is a vital layer that can literally help a child survive a fall into a pool. When considering swim lessons, make sure the instruction includes water safety and survival skills taught at an age appropriate level. Also, even after a child has learned the basics, he or she will benefit from additional lessons geared toward improving swimming skills. Children can be taught survival skills and how to swim at an early age, but should never be considered “drown proof,” as even an Olympic swimmer can drown. And parents, if you know how to swim, teach your child; if you don’t know, take this chance to learn, for your child’s safety and your own enjoyment. In addition, children should be told to stay away from pool drains, pipes, and openings to avoid entanglement and becoming lodged in a suction opening or drain cover. Even more simply, toys should be taken out of the pool after swim time so children do not go in after them.

Preparation: Safety Equipment and Devices

Physical barriers that limit access to a pool or spa area provide another layer of protection against a water accident. These include four-foot-high fencing around the property line or perimeter of the pool area, isolation fencing (both permanent and removable), self-closing and self-latching gates, and alarms on pool gates and house doors. Also install pool and spa safety covers (lockable, where possible) and make sure that they are in good working order. Look for covers whose manufacturer specifies that they meet ASTM specifications, and never allow children or pets to play on these covers. Ladders for above-ground pools should be removed or otherwise made inaccessible when the pool is not in use.

Alarms can help parents secure a safer pool and spa environment. We’ve probably all heard of children who wandered into a pool area without an adult knowing. In some cases, the child opens a house door or pool gate on their own. Alarms alert adults of unauthorized access to the pool area and the water, and allow adults to respond to an emergency quickly. Alarms can be installed on doors and windows, on gates, on the surface, or below the water. Companies now even sell special alarms that attach to a child’s wrist and sound an alarm if the child enters water.

Preparation: Emergency Response

Preparing for an emergency is the final “layer” in protecting children. Emergency response involves having the tools and skills needed to respond to an accident. This includes having a cordless phone poolside in case of an emergency, and obtaining certification in CPR and rescue breathing. It’s also strongly recommended that parents and caregivers take a water safety and rescue course and have rescue equipment poolside, such as a life ring and/or shepherd’s crook. Finally, whenever a child is missing, always check the pool first.

Although water activities require a safety-minded point of view, they’re also lots of fun. With these guidelines and precautions in place, it should be easier for families to enjoy a safe, happy summer around the pool.

(Photo credit: Learning to swim by North Charleston. CC BY 2.0. Cropped, contrast adjusted.)

Further Reading


ICC, Southern Nevada Chapter. (n.d.) Facts about swimming pool drowning accidents. Retrieved from

Florida Department of Health. (n.d.) Injury prevention. Retrieved from

Pool Safely. (n.d.) Simple steps save lives. Retrieved from

Whitworth, G. (June, 2009). Layers of protection: Keeping kids safe in and around pools. UF/IFAS Exension – Brevard County. Printable brochure. Retrieved from


Posted: May 23, 2014

Category: Relationships & Family, Work & Life
Tags: Health And Wellness, Parenting


December 10, 2019

I love using a bread machine, too! Thanks for the recipe, it's great finding something new to experiment with. I mostly use the basic cycle because I love basic white bread but, from time to time, it's nice trying something new.

March 20, 2017

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Carol Church

November 17, 2014

This recipe is amazing and delicious and you don't have to knead it. You can sub in whole wheat flour for about 50% of the flour, but may need to add more water, and the loaf will be flatter. The long rise and high water content give it amazing flavor and texture. I also use this recipe, which makes two loaves and is sort of similar, but not the same. Again, you can sub in whole wheat flour for about 50%. I also like to add sesame seeds. I make this one in traditional loaf pans with a silicone liner (otherwise it will stick) so it can be used for sandwiches more easily. I used to make this recipe every week but haven't been getting around to it lately.

Donna Stoddard
November 11, 2014

I am sharing this blog with all of my students' families. Beautifully written!

October 15, 2014

I've never seen meat on BOGO! I've seen sales on cost per pound, but how do they provide them as BOGO? Would like more information about this as that would be a tremendous savings and a do have a freezer.

Carol Church

October 15, 2014

And then there's the snack provided to the kids after the game! (I can go for fruit and water, but that is not what tends to be provided) Fortunately, the stand turns out to be not that visible to the kids...they didn't notice it, at least this first time.

October 15, 2014

Thanks for sharing this Carol. Those concession stands were always a concern for me, as a nutritionist and mom interested in healthy eating for my family. We almost never bought anything, which made me feel a bit guilty that I was not supporting the team, but I figured that our health was more important than a few dollars for the team. Not only do those foods provide more fat, sodium, and/or added sugars than most people need, they tend to fill you up so that you may not eat a healthy dinner after the game. Of course, that was the other annoying part of soccer games ... the team always wanted to stop at McDonald's after the game! Oh my ...

Carol Church

October 10, 2014

Hi Selina, You may be looking for a point of contact with the UF FYCS department? I will send you an email with the appropriate info. :)

Selina Lee
October 10, 2014

Hi, We need you in the community for purpose of educating youth on your resources. Is this the source of contact to participate in an upcoming event. Please reply at e-mail if so. Agriculture Dept has participated in a previous event with our organization. Thanks so much for the plethora of info that comes from your letters. we appreciate you. Selina Lee

Carol Church

October 9, 2014

My family is totally converted to no-cook overnight oatmeal, whch we had never tried before this post! My daughter loves banana-peanut butter with a tiny bit of chopped dark chocolate, and my son likes apple-cinnamon. I am not a morning person, so I love that I can make it the night before!!


September 25, 2014

I appreciate and agree with your comments, Kevin. Martial Arts are a special way to develop special talents that have gone by the wayside because we are too busy to slow down and realize that past practices, in many instances, still work well in our modern society -- especially with youth.

Kevin Folta
September 25, 2014

You raise a nice set of points there and maybe I can help expand them. I've studied for a long time, and one thing that is earned in training is a sense of community developing from common goals and collective perseverance. It is struggling together. It is setting unattainable goals, but then getting to them. "Special training" sessions are weekends of intense training that is awful. But you survive it and come out stronger. Nobody is a star. We're reminded that we can always do better and strive for perfection. You are always a student and learning, even when you're teaching. Those are some of the best lessons that can be learned and why kids should be involved in martial arts.

September 17, 2014

These are great suggestions. Wish I had time to try more of them than I will be able to try! Thanks for putting these together in one place ... great resource.

Linda Bobroff
September 8, 2014

Yes, a lot of people seem to like those flavored waters and sparkling waters. Call me a seltzer purist! Sometimes I do mix seltzer with orange juice or grape juice for a sparkly drink, so I'm not "pure" all the time ...


September 5, 2014

I find that if I carry a refillable water bottle with me I drink more during the day. I also prefer lemon sparkling water, with natural flavors. No calories, no sugar, no fat yet I get the bubbles!

Linda Bobroff
September 4, 2014

I'm actually not a big fan of water either, but I really enjoy seltzer, so that is my beverage of choice for hydration. You might try that and see if it works for you. No calories, no sugar ... great choice for thirst quenching.

September 4, 2014

It should be easy for me to drink more water, but somehow I don't. Thanks for the inspiration.

Linda Bobroff
September 3, 2014

This is a great blog post -- really enjoyed reading about this research and the fact that it demonstrated what I have long thought about this amazing book series -- that it has extremely positive messages and much to teach young people (and adults as well). One only has to be concerned about those readers who relate more to Malfoy or Voldemort than to Harry and his buddies ...

August 28, 2014

Howdy! I'm at work browsing your blog from my new apple iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the fantastic work!

جريل تيفال
August 26, 2014

Everything is very open with a clear description of the challenges. It was really informative. Your site is very useful. Thanks for sharing!

Michael Gutter
August 11, 2014

Excellent! We found some deals from online websites as well. This did require us to order two weeks ago or else we would not have had it arrive in time...

Carol Church

August 11, 2014

Just did my family's back to school shopping--I was able to find a $10 off coupon using a couponing app! :)

Karla Shelnutt
August 5, 2014

Good catch! Hopefully readers will still focus on the bottom line of this blog that suggests that consumers should be aware that many so-called super foods do not have super powers.

Cory Albrech
July 31, 2014

"Antioxidants protect your cells from damage and can boost your immune system." Umm, no. Nothing "boots your immune system", that's just one of those nonsense phrases from the alt-med & supplements community who think scientifical language legitimizes their claim. You're right to be wary of "superfood" claims, but also beware of false concepts like immune system boosting.

April 15, 2014

good article, thanks for information

Linda Bobroff
March 25, 2014

Getting a diagnosis is so important so that people can either make changes to reduce their risk of diabetes or begin to manage the disease if they already have it. In either case, lifestyle management can make a big difference in quality of life and long-term health. Thanks for the information about the on-line Diabetes Risk Test -- hopefully many people will take advantage of it.

March 25, 2014

Hey! AWESOME!! Thanks for the great info!!


March 20, 2014

Great addition. It is important that we check charges in bank statement, credit card statements, utilities, everything. Being a good consumer truly takes action on our part.

March 19, 2014

Good post. You mentioned here: "Be alert for bills, mail, or account statements that don’t arrive on time". To add to this, many people do not check their bank statements often enough to catch fraudulent activity in a timely manner. It is always a good thing to be mindful of the charges debiting an account and not take for granted that all charges are going to be legit.

March 1, 2014

This is great especially for people like me that needs financial help and assistance. I'll for sure share this to my friends. Thank you ecourtney. :)

Michael Gutter
February 13, 2014

Well said, I too have a growing collection of art projects and cards from my kids. I treasure these. In fact my wife still has a poem I wrote for her while we were dating in graduate school. She eventually had it mounted onto a plaque several years after we were married.

Linda Bobroff
February 12, 2014

This is a good reminder about what is really important on this holiday. It made me think about all of those cards I made for my parents when I was in elementary school know the ones with red paper and doilies! My mom kept those thoughtful (and cheap) cards for years and I too have some that my son made for me. Guess it is the thought that counts (although chocolate is really fun to get too, I must admit ...)!

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