Safe kids Northeast Florida, Wolfson Children's advocate tips for water safety

Jacksonville, FL -

Safe Kids Northeast Florida and its lead organization, THE PLAYERS Center for Child Health at Wolfson Children's Hospital, join the community and the families of all of the children who have drowned this summer in mourning their loss. Drowning is the leading cause of death among children between 1 and 4 and the second leading injury-related cause of death in older children, with nearly 800 children drowning each year. More than half are under age 5.

There have been five children lost to drowning in our area just since April. "Our hearts go out to these families," said Cynthia Dennis, RN, Safe Kids Northeast Florida. "This is something that can easily happen to any parent, so we need to keep spreading the word about the extra precautions we can all take to keep kids safe around water."

More than 5,000 children are seen in emergency rooms for injuries from near-drowning incidents.

Studies show that, although 90 percent of parents say they supervise their children while swimming, many also acknowledge that they engage in other distracting activities at the same time like talking, eating, reading or taking care of another child. Even a near-drowning incident can have lifelong consequences. Kids who survive a near-drowning may have brain damage, and after four to six minutes under water, the damage is usually irreversible.

In the wake of these losses, Safe Kids Northeast Florida strongly recommends the following five tips to keep kids safe in and around water:

  • Give kids your undivided attention by using the Water Watcher
  • Actively supervise children in and around water, without distraction.

When there are several adults present and children are swimming, use the Water Watcher card to designate an adult as the Water Watcher for a certain amount of time (such as 15-minute periods) to prevent lapses in supervision and give parents a chance to read, make phone calls or take a bathroom break. Download a free Water Watcher card from Safe Kids.

Install multiple layers of protection. If you have any water in your backyard or nearby, such as a pool or spa, pond, or above-ground pool, be sure to use not just one barrier to keep toddlers from reaching the water without supervision. Locks installed high on doors leading outside, four-sided isolation fencing around the pool, loud alarms on doors and windows, are examples.

Teach kids how to swim and not to swim alone. There are many options for swimming lessons in our community, so be sure to sign your kids up and get to every lesson!

Whether you're swimming in a backyard pool or in a lake, teach children to swim with an adult. Older, more experienced swimmers should still swim with a partner every time.

From the first time your kids swim, teach children to never go near or in water without an adult present. Teach children to never play or swim near drains or suction outlets, which can cause them to get stuck under water.

Wear life jackets. Always have your children wear a life jacket approved by the U.S. Coast Guard while on boats, around open bodies of water, or when participating in water sports. Make sure the life jacket fits snugly. Have the child make a "touchdown" signal by raising both arms straight up; if the life jacket hits the child's chin or ears, it may be too big or the straps may be too loose

Learn CPR. We know you have a million things to do, but learning CPR should be at the top of the list. It will give you tremendous peace of mind – and the more peace of mind you have as a parent, the better. For more information about CPR classes in your area, visit