• Water Watcher Badges?  Have you seen these? While Water Watcher might be alluring alliteration for anxious adults protecting precious progeny, it is not descriptive enough of the job at hand. There is an important distinction. Many children die right in front of adults, and even in front of lifeguards watching the water.  Watch the children, connect with each child in your care.  You don’t watch children in the water the same way you watch them on the playground. Learn below how to F.A.C.E. your children.

  • Vigilant Surveillance is the primary duty of all lifeguards to prevent accidents. However, vigilance is often very difficult to maintain, particularly when the tasks required by lifeguards become boring, repetitive and routine. Youth, inexperience, fatigue, heat, sun, and a wide variety of distractions, and secondary duties, also negatively affect the ability of a lifeguard to maintain vigilant surveillance. You are responsible for keeping your children safe.



For safety when swimming I recommend
that you always go swimming with one of your friends.

You need an adult to supervise your splashing,
to keep everyone safe and to make your day smashing!


This is so great, I'm putting it at the top of the page!  

October 7, 2015: Omagh pool to maintain controversial admission policy  Good for them!

April 25, 2018: "Secondary Drowning"

Lifeguards at Public Pools

The first question you want to ask when you take your children to a guarded pool is, "Are the lifeguards really paying attention?"  The answer is often, "not as much as they should be."

You should be able to see the lifeguard scanning the pool. They are often taught that scanning should begin and end below their chair, so you should see their heads returning to just below their chairs regularly.

The reality is that in performance tests where a mannequin was placed on the bottom of a busy pool the vast majority of lifeguards took over a minute and a half to notice.

Even so, having a lifeguard is much better than not having a lifeguard. Lifeguards are trained to respond to emergencies. I recommend having your child swim at guarded facilities. 


When should you allow your child to go to a public pool or country club pool without you?

  1. They must know how to swim. This means mastery of all of the S.W.I.M. Model components and the ability to swim a minimum of 200 yards of crawl and 200 yards of backstroke.

  2. They must be of an age that you would drop them off at any public place. If you would not drop off your child at the mall or at a movie to meet friends or see a show alone, do not drop them off at a pool alone.

Lifeguards are only watching your child in the pool, not in the locker rooms or on deck. Lifeguards will not keep your child from leaving the facility. Speaking from personal experience at our pool before we implemented policies to prevent this; some parents dropped off five and six year old swimmers for Family Swim. These children were, in fact, strong swimmers. However, they were five!  No pool has the staff to supervise such young swimmers the way they need to be supervised. 

Baby Pools at public facilities are sometimes guarded and sometimes not guarded. Water quality is an issue of concern at most baby pools. Water should be completely exchanged at least once every day. Chemicals should be checked regularly. Another issue at baby pools is "bottom heavy" toddlers. Toddlers often fall forward when walking in the baby pool, putting both hands down with the face ending up under water. Often, the weight of water-filled diapers adding to the problem, they are unable to right themselves without assistance. I have seen many instances where mom is sitting two feet from a child who has upended, but doesn't notice. There is no cry for help. Children drown in seconds and in silence. You cannot take your eyes off of a non-swimmer.

Be especially vigilant at zero-depth pools. I know parents like these, but I don't get it for young non-swimmers. Why take children who can't swim and who can barely walk on a level surface to play in the water on an incline?  Flat surfaces are much safer for toddlers and preschoolers to navigate until they are skilled swimmers.


The person appearing to be playing dead at the bottom of the pool may actually be lifeless. If you see something that looks "not right" at a pool, say something. Ask for help. Teach your children to do the same. I have several videos, all from surveillance cameras at pools where drownings occurred. In all three incidents, curious young swimmers circled the victims for minutes. No one reported anything to lifeguards or attempted to help the victims, they just looked, diving down again and again, circling around and looking again. I don't know that it occurred to any of the children that a tragedy was happening right in front of them, but I do know that no one reported anything or asked for help. In all cases, it wasn't the lifeguard who eventually spotted the victim, it was onlookers who cared enough to get involved.

The tragic death of Yoni Gottesman, 4, was recorded by security video. This is graphic and disturbing content. Yoni's family has shared their experience online in an effort to prevent this from happening to anyone else. Think carefully before you click on the link and watch this video. It is upsetting. However, it can be helpful in showing you how even with lifeguards and supervisors in place, drownings can and do occur.

Security Video from 

More backyard safety tips

  • Have safety equipment in place and in working order at all times.

  • Teenagers should not be allowed to use the pool without supervision.

  • Do not serve alcohol to swimmers of any age.

  • Do not allow diving into any backyard pool.


The American Red Cross teaches REACH - THROW - ROW - DON'T GO.  However, I recommend the following:

  • Reach: Assist a swimmer in trouble by reaching with an object or your arm or leg.

  • Throw: Throw a line or something that floats to a swimmer in trouble.

  • Row: In open water situations, use a boat to get to a swimmer in distress.

  • GO!: Go for help. Do not attempt a rescue in water over your head if you are not a trained lifeguard.

Only a trained lifeguard should attempt a rescue in water over his/her head. You can get this training yourself from a variety of organizations. We highly recommend lifeguard training for owners of backyard pools.


Supervision is also the key to preventing children from injury in bathtubs and buckets. Never leave a child under the age of seven unattended in the bathtub.  So do not leave an infant, toddler, or young child in the care of a sibling or other caregiver younger than middle school age. 

Get your supplies ready before the bath. Have everything within your reach. While you are with a child in the bathtub, do not let anything distract you from the task at hand. Nothing else happening at that time in your house is more important than preventing your child from drowning. When it comes to young children in bathtubs, the potential for drowning is real.

Buckets can be a danger too, especially to toddlers. The most danger seems to be from 5-gallon buckets. These are sturdy enough not to tip over when a child uses them to pull up. Watch your children closely when you are using buckets in the home.  Empty buckets as soon as you are finished using them.

If you haven't already, write down these two keys to drowning prevention.

When you are the lifeguard...

When children are using a pool there should always be a designated person to watch each child. One adult should never be responsible for more than one non-swimmer or a few skilled swimmers. You can only watch one non-swimmer or a few swimmers...not both. Each non-swimmer requires their own adult within arms reach at all times. We call this Touch Supervision.

There is no exact number of swimmers that can be supervised by one adult, it depends on the size of the pool and the age and skill level of the swimmers.  Err on the side of having too many adults rather than too few.

F.A.C.E. your Swimmers

    Focus your


    Connect with


You should never be responsible for so many children that you cannot make connections with each one. Scan the pool from the bottom up and then make a connection with each child in your care. Repeat this process again and again. Make sure you see their faces, look into their eyes, and read their expressions. Everyone ok? Anyone fatigued? Scared? Angry? Frustrated? Hungry? Need a bathroom break?     

Surveillance tasks can become repetitive, boring, and routine. It's easy to lose focus. Heat and fatigue also play a role in reducing your ability to maintain vigilant surveillance. Electronic devices can be very distracting. Clear the pool to take rest and bathroom breaks. Stay hydrated. Know your limitations. Finish with the same number of precious faces that you started with.

Don't just watch the water. 
F.A.C.E. your swimmers.

Drowning doesn't look like you think it does...learn more.


CPR is an artificial method of circulating blood and oxygen through a body attempting to keep the brain alive. CPR & First Aid Training are readily available in most communities. I can help you find a course in your area. It's easy to learn; and YOU CAN DO IT.  

Lifeguard Training is a great way to learn to respond to emergency situations in and around the water. You do not have to plan to work as a professional lifeguard to benefit from this training. I recommend that all fifteen-year-olds take lifeguard training whether or not they ever plan to lifeguard professionally.


Vigilant surveillance is the primary duty of all lifeguards to prevent accidents. In reality, vigilance is very difficult to maintain, particularly when the tasks required by lifeguards become boring, repetitive, and routine. Youth, inexperience, fatigue, heat, sun, and a wide variety of distractions and secondary duties also negatively affect the ability of a lifeguard to maintain vigilant surveillance. Watch your children!

  1. List two conditions that must be present before you would consider allowing your child to go to a guarded swimming pool without you.

  2. What is Touch Supervision?

  3. If you see something, _______ ___________!

Review the material on this page if you cannot answer the questions.  When you feel comfortable that you understand the information presented on this page, go ahead and click below to continue to the next page.

Video Credit: eDecanus