Water Safety: How To Save A Drowning Person?

Water is the most critical resource for life on Earth, but it can also be deadly. Statistics from the CDC show that drowning is the primary cause of death for young children, and remains a high-risk factor even as kids grow older. This guide will look at the importance of water safety for kids and adults, as well as cover essential drowning prevention tips and techniques.

The Importance of Water Safety

The concept of water safety revolves around various practices and techniques to help people of all ages, with a particular focus on young children, to stay safe while in and around bodies of water, which can include anything from backyard swimming pools to lakes, rivers, and even the ocean.

Water safety is critical. Many children die from drowning each year, with an average of 11 deaths per day in the US alone and an additional 8,000 non-fatal drownings annually, which can still result in lifelong health problems and emotional trauma for those involved. Here are some additional statistics on drowning, from the CDC:

  • Drowning is the No. 1 cause of death for those aged between 1 and 4.
  • It’s the second-highest cause of death in children from 5 to 14.
  • Almost 4 in 10 non-fatal drownings require hospitalization.
  • Non-fatal drowning regularly causes long-term brain damage and disabilities․
  • Those with certain medical conditions, like epilepsy and autism, are also more prone to drowning.

Drowning Prevention

Clearly, drowning is a major threat, especially to children and teens. But, with proper water safety education and techniques, the risk of drowning can be drastically reduced for everyone. Here are some essential drowning safety tips:

Adult Supervision Is Essential

When it comes to water safety for children, supervision is of the utmost importance. Children of all ages should always have an adult nearby to keep an eye on them while they’re using the pool, or when around other sources of water, like seas and rivers. Even in the bath or a small paddling pool, young children require constant supervision.

Teach Children to Swim

Another critical element of child water safety is to teach children to swim early on in life. If a child knows the basics of how to keep themselves afloat and how to swim if they fall in a pool or river, they’ll be far less likely to drown. Parents are encouraged to take their children to swimming lessons or teach them themselves in a public pool or other safe environment.

Fences and Gates

In regard to private pools, it’s recommended to install protective elements, like pool fences and gates, around the pool itself. This can make all the difference, as it should help to prevent anyone from accessing the pool when they shouldn’t, as well as provide a strong physical barrier to stop somebody from slipping and falling into the pool while walking around it.

Swimming Pool Rules and Guidelines

At every public pool, there are clear rules and guidelines that everyone is expected to follow. Examples include no diving, no running around the pool, no dunking other people beneath the water, following the lifeguard’s instructions at all times, and so on. It’s essential to always follow these rules and encourage children to learn and obey them.

Basic Water Safety Rules for All

There’s a lot of focus on water safety for toddlers and children, but people of all ages should try to follow smart water safety rules, such as never swimming too far out in a sea or river, never swimming alone, making use of floats and life vests when needed, and avoid diving into water that is too shallow. By following these rules, you can set a good example for kids to follow.

Swimming Safety

Swimming can be a great form of exercise and a fun way to get out into nature and have fun with family or friends. However, it’s also important to follow proper safety guidelines when swimming in different locations, from pools to beaches.

Water Safety in a Pool

Pools are generally the safest places to swim, as the water is calm and controlled. However, there’s still a big risk of accidents and drownings occurring. Here are some key tips for swimming pool safety:

  • Keep children supervised at all times.
  • Follow all listed pool rules.
  • Don’t drive in shallow sections of the water.
  • Use steps and ladders to get in and out safely.
  • Make use of floats and other accessories, as needed.
  • If a lifeguard is present, follow their instructions.
  • Avoid any rough play.

Video courtesy of  Pro CPR.

Drowning Safety in Lakes, Rivers, and Streams

Lakes, rivers, and streams are great places to swim in nature, but the currents of rivers and streams can carry weak swimmers away, and there’s always a risk of rocks or jagged surfaces hidden among the depths. Here are some key tips:

  • Never swim alone in a natural place like a lake or river.
  • Weak swimmers should avoid this kind of swimming entirely, except in designated safe zones of a lake.
  • Follow all lifeguard instructions and posted safety rules.
  • If the water is cold, enter gradually to let your body adjust.
  • Be careful of currents when swimming in a river.
  • Make sure you stay close to safe entry/exit points.

Swimming Safety at the Beach

At the beach, you can swim in the salty waters of oceans and seas. This can be one of the most liberating and exciting ways to swim, but also one of the most dangerous, due to the tide and the power of the waves.

  • Stay in the shallow water and avoid swimming too far out, especially if you have little experience.
  • Watch out for any possible marine life that could pose a threat, like sharks and jellyfish.
  • Follow all guidelines for the beach or instructions from a local lifeguard.
  • Try to swim adjacent to the shore.
  • Be careful of the tide.
  • Avoid swimming if the waves are very choppy and rough.
  • Calmly float and tread water if you find yourself stranded.
  • If you’re stranded when the tide is coming in, float calmly and wait to get in.
  • If the tide is going out, raise an arm and signal for help.

Video courtesy of American Red Cross.

Drowning First Aid

Next, let’s take a look at what to do when someone is drowning and what kind of first aid you can provide.

Signs and Symptoms of Drowning

It’s important to tell the difference between a swimmer in aquatic distress and a swimmer who is drowning. During aquatic distress, a person yells and wave their arms around in a panicked state, crying for help. However, drowning looks very different. Here are the main signs:

  • The head will be tilted back, usually with the mouth open.
  • The person will be in an upright position.
  • The drowning victim usually won’t be kicking or moving their legs.
  • They may have a panicked expression, with glassy eyes and hyperventilation.

Some symptoms of someone who has nearly drowned will include cold skin, coughing, chest pains, a lack of breath, possible vomiting, and swelling of the stomach.

Steps to Take When Someone Is Drowning

How to save a drowning person? The first step is to try to get them out of the water as quickly and safely as possible, without putting yourself in danger. Here are some recommended steps to follow:

  • Call for help. A lifeguard or other experienced swimmers may be nearby to aid the victim. You can also ask nearby people to call 911.
  • Throw a flotation device, a piece of rope, or some other item toward the person to keep them afloat and drag them to dry ground.
  • Once the person is out of the water, check them to see if they’re breathing. Lean over them with your ear to their mouth or nose to check for this.
  • You can also check the person’s pulse. If there isn’t a pulse, you’ll need to perform CPR to try to resuscitate them.

How to Perform CPR on a Drowning Victim

  • Place the person on their back. Put the base of your hand on the center of the person’s chest, or put both hands together, one on top of the other.
  • Perform chest compressions, pushing down around two inches each time and trying to do two every second or around 120 every minute.
  • Give the chest time to rise in between each push.
  • Check the person to see if they’re breathing.
  • If they’re not breathing, you can tilt the person’s head back, lift their chin, pinch their nose, and breathe into their mouth twice. This is called a “rescue breath” and two of these breaths should be given after every 30 compressions if the person is still not breathing.

Note: For children, the process is mostly identical, but it’s important to be more cautious when compressing the chest so as not to push down on the ribs or breastbone too harshly.

What to Do When the Victim Is Unconscious?

If the victim is unconscious in the water, you’ll have to swim out to drag them in or call for help and get someone else to bring the person to shore. You can then check their breathing and pulse and carry out CPR if needed, while awaiting emergency help.

Water Safety for Kids and Toddlers

As explained earlier on, young children and toddlers are exceptionally high-risk groups for accidental drowning and death in the water. It’s therefore very important to pay extra special care and attention whenever a young child is in or around water.

  • Always supervise young children in or around water, and never leave them, even briefly.
  • If swimming, keep young children close to you so you can grab them if they slip beneath the surface.
  • Use flotation devices to keep young children afloat, but don’t rely on them entirely.
  • Avoid any distractions – maintain total focus on the child.
  • Always empty baths, pools, buckets, and other containers of water after use.
  • Don’t leave any containers with water around the house, as even a small amount could be enough to drown a young child.

Importance of Swimming Lessons for Children

The importance of swimming lessons for children cannot be understated. The sooner kids learn to swim, the less chance they’ll have of accidental drowning or other water-related incidents. This is especially important if you have your own pool or plan on visiting lakes, rivers, and seas with your child in the future.


Overall, it’s clear to see that water safety is absolutely essential for every family, especially those with young children. It’s so easy for accidents to happen, and it only takes a moment for a child to drown. Fortunately, with proper education and a good understanding of water safety, the risks should be much lower for all.


What is the most important rule for safe swimming?

The golden rule with swimming is generally to never swim alone. It’s always important to have somebody else nearby who can help you, if needed.

What not to do before swimming?

Try to avoid eating a lot before swimming, as this can make you feel full, tired, and sick. Adults are also strongly encouraged to avoid alcohol before swimming, as this could increase your chances of accidents.

Does water temperature affect drowning?

Yes, being in very cold water can increase the odds of drowning, as you may go into shock and have less control over your muscles and movements, making it harder to stay up.

What is the best and safest time for swimming?

In pools, any time during the day is safe to swim. In seas and oceans, it’s best to wait until the tide is slack, which means that the waters are calm and gentle.

Water & Drowning Safety Resources

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