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Beyond the Surface: How to Keep Kids Safer in the Water with Layers of Protection

Step Into Swim advises caregivers about swim safety, shares notable practices for drowning prevention

Alexandria, Va. (August 26, 2023) – Families may be squeezing in extra pool time to close out summer, but enjoying the water doesn’t have to be limited to a single season. Swimming is a year-round activity and practicing swim safety is critical throughout the year, too. With parents lacking confidence in their own swimming abilities, Step Into Swim, a water safety initiative of the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance, addresses drowning prevention and offers caregivers a proactive approach to keeping their children safer in the water during the summer months and beyond.

Unfortunately, drowning impacts nearly 4,000 people each year and is a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4.1 Pair these startling statistics with data from Step Into Swim’s latest consumer survey conducted by The Harris Poll2 – which shows that only half of parents who have a child ages 14 or under (52%) are confident in their own swimming abilities, only 37% have had formal swim lessons, and just over one quarter (29%) are CPR certified – and you’ll see the importance of educating both parents and children on swim safety. Empowering those around the water to be safe, confident and comfortable in any swim environment is critical.  

“Drowning is a tragedy that impacts far too many families in the U.S.,” said Rowdy Gaines, three-time Olympic Gold Medalist and Vice President of Partnerships and Development at PHTA who leads the Step Into Swim initiative. “It is my mission to end drowning once and for all and to create more swimmers who can navigate the water safely. It starts with swim education, including awareness about multiple layers of protection.”

Step Into Swim encourages adults to keep these water safety layers of protection in mind during the summer and beyond:

  • Supervision. Parents and caregivers have a responsibility to keep the children in their care safe around the water. Actively supervise children in and out of the water because drowning can happen in seconds, even with strong swimmers. 

  • Water Awareness. Understanding the swim environment is vital. Teach children to be aware of their surroundings and know that swimming in a pool is different than swimming in open water. The presence of lifeguards, crowds, water depth, and weather are all factors to consider.  

  • Swim Lessons. Learning to swim is one of the safest measures because it instills lifesaving skills, such as floating on the back, blowing bubbles and getting to the edge of a pool safely. In fact, learning to swim from a qualified instructor reduces the risk of drowning by 88% among children ages 1 to 4.3 

  • Barriers and Alarms. Pool alarms, covers, locked gates and fences act as added barriers and help delay unsupervised access to water. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, nearly 70% of drownings among children ages 4 and younger happen during non-swim times. 

  • Life Jackets. Wearing a properly-fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket can be a lifesaver. These are helpful safety measures to wear during open water activities, such as boating or kayaking, regardless of swim level. Inexperienced swimmers should always wear a life jacket around the water. Keep in mind that not all flotation devices are created equal. Floaties are not recognized as safe personal floatation devices, and children lose their ability to remain afloat when water wings are removed.  

  • Emergency Preparedness. Adults can be prepared for emergencies by learning CPR, knowing the location of life-saving equipment, such as life rings and first aid kids, and having a plan in case a situation arises. It’s also important to know how to provide immediate assistance while waiting for professional medical help to arrive. 

For more swim safety tips and resources, visit


About Step Into Swim

Step Into Swim is an initiative of the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance and its foundation committed to safe swim education and drowning prevention. By investing in the next generation of swimmers through learn-to-swim programming, the Step Into Swim initiative instills confidence, empowers long-term participation in water activities, touts the positive benefits of water play, and advocates for safe practices. Since its inception in 2012, Step Into Swim has played a role in reducing drowning fatalities and has gifted swim lessons to more than 300,000 children with support from community organizations, partners, industry advocates, members, and more. For more information, visit


1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Drowning Facts.

2 This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of PHTA from April 13-17, 2023, among 636 U.S. parents aged 18+ who have a child ages 14 or under.

3 Brenner, R. A., et al. (2009). Association Between Swimming Lessons and Drowning in Childhood: A Case-Control Study. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

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