Water safety for everyone

Tips for people of all ages to stay safe in and around water

Swimming is a fun activity and a great way to keep cool, but it’s important to know how to stay safe in and around water. Drowning is swift and silent — there may be little splashing or cries for help. It can take as few as 20 seconds to sink below the water and only minutes to drown whether around a pond, lake, river, ocean, or pool. Learn how you can keep your family, especially children, safe and prevent drownings.

Tips

Learn to swim and be prepared for an emergency

  • Learn how to swim. If you can’t swim or aren’t a strong swimmer, keep to shallow areas or use a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • Swim with a buddy and never alone, even if you’re a strong swimmer.
  • Learn CPR. The American Red Cross offers a wide selection of CPR/AED, first aid, lifeguarding, swimming and water safety, caregiving, disaster response and emergency preparedness training. Find information on CPR classes.
  • Keep a cellphone nearby and know where you are in case you need to call for help.

Be alert and supervise closely

  • Always supervise children in and around water, even if they know how to swim.
  • Stay within arm’s length when supervising children who aren’t strong swimmers.
  • Designate an adult “water watcher” to supervise children. Being a water watcher means avoiding any distractions, even for a moment. If in a large group of adults, create a schedule of water watchers.
  • Even if a lifeguard is present, make sure to closely supervise children. A lifeguard is there to enforce rules, scan the area, and provide rescue intervention, and should not replace adult supervision.
  • Avoid distractions while supervising children (i.e., reading, texting, talking on the phone, drinking alcohol).
  • Teach children that it is dangerous to play rough or climb on each other in the water.
  • Keep a cellphone nearby and know where you are in case you need to call for help.
  • Know the following signs of drowning, which is faster and quieter than you may think:
    • A person is floating on or treading water
    • A person is trying swim to safety but unable to move forward
    • A person that is struggling to call for help
    • A person trying to keep their head above water to breathe

Wear a life jacket

  • For children, teens, or adults who cannot swim or are weak swimmers, make sure they wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • Never use air-filled or foam toys, such as "water wings," "noodles," or inner tubes, in place of life jackets. These toys are not designed to keep swimmers safe or prevent drowning.
  • Always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket when in a boat.

Swim in safe locations

  • Only swim in areas specifically designated for swimming
  • Learn how to identify hazards, like rip tides, when swimming in oceans, lakes, rivers, and ponds.
  • Avoid swimming in an area with strong moving currents, underwater debris, and water temperatures that could be dangerous.
  • Swim in locations with lifeguards when possible. A lifeguard is there to enforce rules, scan the area, and provide rescue intervention, and should not replace adult supervision.
  • Do not dive or jump into water that is not at least 12 feet deep. Enter the water feet-first and never dive head-first into a river, lake, or pond. You can severely injure your head and neck, and potentially drown.
  • Do not swim during a thunderstorm or when there is lightning. During lightning storms, seek shelter and stay away from metal objects, open areas, and large trees.

Additional Resources for

Water Safety Infographics

Water Safety Videos

Feedback