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The Florida Department of Health works to protect, promote & improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county & community efforts.

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Water Safety

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When the Florida summer months begin, residents and visitors often cool off by jumping into water. Whether in the backyard pool, a local lake, or the ocean, swimming and boating are popular summer activities. These activities are fun but it’s important to take precautions and practice good safety measures when you are around water.

Drowning is the leading cause of death in children ages one through four in the nation. Florida has the 3rd highest rate of drowning deaths in the nation. Polk County’s drowning death rate remains higher than the state average with approximately 13 drowning deaths in 2020.

Drowning can be a silent event. Someone can drown in as little as 30 seconds, and it only takes 1 inch of water.

Keep these tips in mind to help keep water activities fun, refreshing, and safe for the entire family:

Active Supervision – Active supervision is when an adult actively scans the pool every 30 seconds to supervise swimmers. This adult should never be more than an arm’s length away from children when swimming. It is important to designate one adult, known as the Water Watcher to actively supervise swim times. This adult should not be distracted by any other activity such as reading a book, playing a game, checking their cell phone/social media, or having a conversation with another adult. Make sure to only designate one adult as the Water Watcher to prevent any confusion over who is responsible for supervision. If the Water Watcher needs a break, i.e. to use the phone or go to the bathroom, another adult must be designated as the Water Watcher. If you are interested in receiving a Water Watcher tag, please refer to https://www.poolsafely.gov/ (link opens in new window)

Water Barriers – Having a barrier installed between a house and a pool can help to reduce drowning accidents by 50-80%. It is required by law to have at least one barrier installed; however, this is only required on pools that were built before the year 2000. Example of pool barriers include a door alarm on the door exiting the home, pool fencing that is at least 5 feet tall between the home and the pool, and gates with self-latching/self-closing mechanisms. 

CPR Certification – It only takes 4-6 minutes without oxygen to cause lasting brain damage. It is important to know how to begin administering CPR as soon as possible in the case of an accident.

Swimming Lessons – The first line of defense in water safety is making sure that everyone who is going to be participating in the water activity knows how to swim. It is important to teach children to swim with a certified instructor. Children can learn to swim as early as 6 months old and may need annual refresher lessons until the child is a proficient swimmer. For a list of swim lessons available in Polk County, click here (PDF - 243kb Opens in new window).

Boating Safety – When boating, make sure that all passengers have the appropriate-sized life jacket available and that your driver obeys all signs in the waterways. Always remember that drinking alcohol while boating will impair one’s judgment and reaction time. Never drink alcohol while operating a boat.