Water Safety

Water Watcher Cards Can Help Save Lives; Child Drowning Deaths Increase 89% in Summer

As pools open nationwide, Safe Kids Worldwide offers free tool to promote active supervision to safeguard kids in and around water

.Download your water watcher cardWashington, D.C. With the annual Memorial Day opening of pools across the nation, Safe Kids Worldwide is offering a free tool to help parents keep kids safe in and around water this summer, the most dangerous time of year for kids.

Drowning deaths among children ages .14 and under increase 89 percent in the summer over the average annual monthly rate, with 64 percent of all children's drowning deaths occurring in the summer months. 

Water Watcher Card is free, easy to use

With the increased likelihood of drowning in mind, Safe Kids Worldwide has created the Water Watcher Card, which is meant to be passed between adults taking turns acting as the Designated Watcher of children at a pool or beach.

Just as a designated driver is responsible for driving safely, the designated Water Watcher is the adult responsible for actively supervising children to assure that they stay safe in the water, said Chrissy Cianflone, Water Safety Program Manager at Safe Kids Worldwide, the leading children's safety organization dedicated to preventing accidental injuries and deaths of children ages 0-.14 years.

When it comes to protecting children from drowning, nothing works better than good, old-fashioned vigilance, Cianflone said, adding that the Water Watcher Card will help the parents focus like a laser beam on actively supervising children's activities in and around water.

Water Watcher Card facilitates active supervision

The Water Watcher Card is free and simple to use.  Active supervision requires that the adult responsible for children not be engaged in any other poolside activities, including talking or reading.  In set intervals -- .15 minutes at a time is a good starting point -- the person holding the Water Watcher card becomes the Designated Watcher and must keep his/her eyes on the children.  After .15 minutes, the card is passed to another adult, who then becomes the Designated Watcher.

It seems like a no-brainer, but when everyone is supposed to be watching, no one really is, Cianflone said.  If you're talking to someone, reading a book or eating a sandwich, you are not actively supervising.  Even a few seconds of inattention can lead to disaster for children around water. 

Drowning is quick and quiet

Drowning occurs quickly and quietly, Cianflone said.  Children don't flail around and scream for help, like we see in the movies.  They just slip silently under the water.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a child loses consciousness after only two minutes under water and irreversible brain damage occurs after four to six minutes of submersion.  Even if the child is resuscitated after that time, he or she will likely suffer permanent brain damage.  Most children who drown are found after approximately .10 minutes.

Safe Kids Worldwide has other suggestions for keeping kids safe this summer in and around water, including

  • Support legislation that requires four-sided fencing securely placed around home pools -- which have proven to prevent 50 percent to 90 percent of residential pool drownings and near drownings as well as laws that require pool and spa drains to have anti-entrapment devices.
  • Don't rely on flotation devices like water wings and inner tubes.  Children can slip out and be underwater in a matter of seconds.  U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets of proper size and type must always be worn in open water.