Open water safety

Drowning is a leading cause of injury-related death for Canadian children. Drowning happens quickly and silently. It often happens when a child just slips under the water. A young child can drown in as little as 2.5 cm (one inch) of water in just seconds.

Safety around open waterChildren under 18 years of age are at the greatest risk of drowning in rivers, lakes and ponds. However, most deaths of children aged one to four are in backyard pools, especially when they are not supervised. Forty-two percent of all children who drowned in the past 10 years did not have an adult watching them.

Reduce the risk of your child drowning in open water

Stay within sight and reach of your child when in, on or around the water. Adults should stand within arm's reach of any child under five years of age or any older child who does not swim well, when they are in water or playing near the water. An older sibling or buddy cannot be relied upon to safely watch your child. Children have drowned when an older child or sibling was watching them.

Don't rely on older children. An older sibling or buddy cannot be relied on to safely supervise a younger child. Children have drowned when an older child or sibling was watching them.

Learn how to swim or have your child supervised by an experienced adult. Learn first aid and CPR. Make sure there is an experienced swimmer with your child whenever they are in or around the water. If your child happens to slip into the water, an experienced swimmer will need to quickly get the child out of the water and perform CPR, if necessary.

Young children and weak swimmers must wear lifejackets when in, on or around the water and on a boat. Children can fall into the water quickly and silently without adults being aware. A lifejacket can help keep your child safe until someone can rescue her.  Make sure the lifejacket fits your child's weight. Buckle it up every time, and use all of the safety straps on the lifejacket. Your child could slip out of a lifejacket that is too big or not buckled up properly. 

If you have a property (house or cottage) that is close to open water, fence off a play area for children that is away from the water. Children can drown during a brief period of time when an adult is not watching them. You can help prevent child drowning by creating a barrier between your property and the open water. A fence should be at least 1.2 metres (four feet) high with a self-closing, self-latching gate.

Put your child in swimming lessons. It is best to ensure that children have training but remember lessons do not provide them with special protection or extra care. Supervision is still needed, even if your child was or is in swimming lessons.

Teach your children about currents and water safety rules. Teach your children about the currents in lakes, rivers and oceans. As your child gets older and their swimming skills get better, teach them age specific water safety rules. It will help them to better understand why they can't do certain things when they are around or in the water.