Supervision, barriers, preparedness: how to prevent drownings

Florida Department of Health in Flagler County advises on water safety.

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  • | 4:50 a.m. May 6, 2022
Photo by Juan Salamanca on Pexels
Photo by Juan Salamanca on Pexels
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by: Jaffy Lee

PIO Florida Department of Health-Flagler

Drowning is fast, silent and can happen to anyone. Taking preventive measures to stop drownings, skin damage, and heat exhaustion is imperative when living in Florida. May is National Water Safety Month, a time to participate in water safety.

Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death to children ages 1-4 in Florida. With pools, lakes, and other surrounding bodies of water in Florida, water safety is key in preventing drownings. Children ages 1-4 are more likely to drown in a home swimming pool, compared to children ages 5-19 who are more likely to drown in natural bodies of water. A drowning can happen in just the few minutes a distraction can take you away from the water to answer the phone or run inside for a towel. Remember to use multiple layers of protection for safety: Supervision, Barriers, and Preparedness.

Whether you are a parent or a community group member, everyone plays a role in drowning prevention. The goal is to keep water activities fun and safe for all as we move into the summer months. Here are a few water safety tips provided by WaterSafeFL.


  • Supervision, learn to make water safety a priority, ensure that your family members are knowledgeable around the water, assign a “water watcher”, by having a responsible adult around to actively watch when a child or adult is in or around the water.
  • Barriers, a child should never enter the pool are unaccompanied. Barriers including gates, fences, walls, doors, and windows are recommended to aid in the assistance and protection of those who are at risk.
  • Emergency Preparedness, in an emergency, it is critical to have a phone nearby to call 911 if needed. Know your location and know what type of emergency you are calling about. CPR and First Aid are also important to know.


Swimming in open water is very different from swimming in a pool. Even the strongest swimmer can get into trouble swimming in open water. Here are some tips for protection when swimming at the beach or lake.

SWIM IT: Always swim with a buddy. Be aware of safety flags and signs and swim only when there is an “all clear” to do so.

SHORE IT: If you have a cut on your skin or if your immune system is weakened, or you don’t have a buddy to swim with, stay on dry land.

DODGE IT:  If you encounter animals that live near or in the water, stay away and don’t touch. Be aware of red tides and algal blooms/blue-green algae. This can cause skin irritation, burning eyes, and throat and breathing irritations. You can find information on red tide and blue-green algae on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website and the Florida Department of Environment Protection.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S.. Most skin cancers are caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun, and we know that living in the Sunshine State provides plenty of rays. The best way to avoid the powerful ultraviolet exposure of the sun is to use sunscreen, seek shade, and cover up with clothing. The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) recommends using sunscreen with a UVA/UVB SPF 15 or higher. Remember! Wearing a hat, seeking shade, and wearing your sunglasses are great ways to prevent dangerous sun exposure.


In addition to skin protection, it is equally important to watch for heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion can happen to anyone, and it is important to know the symptoms. Symptoms include: Headaches, dizziness, weakness, lightheadedness irritability, confusion, upset stomach, and vomiting.

Heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke-the most serious form of heat injury. Tips for preventing heat-related illnesses include: wearing lightweight clothing, drinking plenty of water, and paying attention to heat alerts.




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