Water Safety

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While swimming can be fun for the whole family, it can quickly turn into a tragedy. Swimming pools in the yard can be very dangerous for children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, drowning is the number one cause of death in California for children under five years of age. According to government statistics for every drowning, there are eleven near drowning incidents, many of which result in totally disabling brain damage.

It is important to take steps to prevent these tragic events. Many drowning incidents occur while one or both parents are responsible for supervision, and most of the time the last place where victims are seen is in the house, porch, patio or playing in the yard prior to being found in the pool. Although supervision is the number one key to a safe day at the pool, a backup plan is also necessary. Create a “fail safe” approach where there are several systems that will help prevent your child from drowning.


  • Never leave a child alone in or near the pool, not even for a moment.
  • Do not talk on the phone or even read a book or magazine while watching children around the pool.
  • Do not let the number of children reach beyond your control. Set a standard for yourself on the number of children versus. the number of supervisors. The more children you have and the bigger the pool the more supervisors you will need.
  • Keep rescue equipment (such as shepherd’s hook or life preserver) and a telephone by the pool.

Hazard assessment

  • Identify hazards that could lead to drowning such as pools, spas, water on pool covers, wading pools, baths, buckets of water and outdoor ponds.
  • Floating aids such as “floaties” are not a substitute for approved life vests and can give a false sense of security.
  • Remove all toys from the pool area after each use so children are not tempted to reach for them.


  • Install a fence, at least five feet high, around the sides of the pool that separate your house and play area from the pool. Use gates that self-close and self-latch. Make sure the latch is higher than a child can reach.
  • Any door leading to the pool area should be kept locked and equipped with an alarm system that will sound when perimeter doors are opened.
  • Power safe covers that meet the standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) add to the protection of children but should not be used in place of fencing. 
  • Floating or infrared pool alarms with a remote alarm sounding in the home can alert you to a child falling in the water.


  • Establish rules covering pool use and, more importantly, when it is not to be used by unsupervised children.
  • Consider water survival training for a child when they are capable of crawling or walking to the pool.
  • CPR and knowledge of rescue techniques are the final layer of protection in the case of an accident. This should be a standard for anyone watching or supervising children by the pool.

For information on the San Marcos Fire Department’s CPR classes, visit the CPR Classes web page.