Parents, it is up to us to work together and with the aquatics staff to make water facilities safe and enjoyable for everyone!

Encourage the aquatics staff to create a SwimSafe4Life Community Commitment Board that includes, but is not limited to:
1. A picture of the staff member with first name only*
2. A copy of a current Lifeguarding Certification*
3. A copy of a current CPR for the Professional Rescuer Certification*
4. A copy of a current First Aid Certification*
5. Proof of attendance, within the past 12 months, of a Drowning Risk & Recognition Training Seminar[1]*

[1] With the exception of a first name, all other personal information should not be visible.
Multiple layers of protection are critical to keeping you and your loved ones safe in and around water!

Parents, you are the first layer:

  • Swimming lessons and spending time in the water are vital to water safety. Swimming lessons teach a child water safety and how to swim—knowledge and skills that are critical in America and throughout the world. However, swimming lessons do not provide a guarantee against drowning. Anyone can get into trouble in water and drown, including experienced, competent and strong swimmers!
  • Lifeguards are not babysitters. Follow the rules of the facility regarding the age at which a child can be without parental supervision.
  • Even if your child is old enough per the facility’s rule to be left alone, it is advised that your child swim with a buddy.
  • If your child is a weak or non-swimmer, you must be in the pool with your child close enough to you that you can immediately pick her up out of the water without moving.
  • US Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices (PFDs) don’t replace adult supervision! Your child can unhook, untie or compromise the PFD in many other ways without your knowledge.
  • Parents, be proactive.

Parents, if you witness anything that jeopardizes safety and puts lives at risk:

  • Immediately address the situation with the supervisor on duty.
  • Even if the situation is rectified, it is critical that you email the aquatic supervisor and at least one other member of the facility’s management that day.
  • It is paramount that the aquatic director has your information in order to track and to identify recurring dangerous situations and patterns of behaviors of staff!
  • Information is critical to creating and maintaining a professional staff and a safe aquatic facility.
  • Include in your email the date, time, pertinent names, the supervisor you spoke to and what if any corrective actions were taken, a description of what you witnessed and any other significant details.
  • If possible, take pictures or video and include them in your email. One email with a picture or video might be all it takes to prompt significant safety improvement at a facility.


Research has proven that many parents overestimate their child’s swimming ability. In truth, only qualified water safety personnel can access a person’s swimming ability.

A personal story from Kathleen Wollin Pluchinsky:
KathleenandTheLifeguardAs parents, we can become defensive when a lifeguard corrects our children or us. Well … at least I know I can, and I have.

SwimSafe4Life’s Community Commitment Board Suggestion not only includes the 5 proof of training requirements but also that a facility provide U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) approved personal floatation devices (PFDs) in good condition and in all sizes for patrons to use. When I speak publicly and address audiences of aquatic staff, I always emphasis that “it” is their pool—that they are responsible for the safety of every person there. I also insist that they request that parents put USCG approved life vests (not “floaties” or something else brought from home that is not USCG approved) on their children or move them to shallow water per their (the lifeguard’s) judgment. I then remind supervisors that it is their job to intervene, if necessary.



Lifeguards are on duty to anticipate and prevent injuries and drownings and to respond to emergencies.

Seconds can determine the outcome of a drowning victim:death, various degrees of disabilities or full recovery. 

Prioritize pool safety:

  • Lifeguards are not babysitters. Follow the rules of the facility regarding the age at which a child is allowed to swim without parental supervision.
  • Do not allow your children to time or compete in any breath holding underwater competition.
  • Insist that your child follow all rules in all areas of a facility.
  • Do not allow your child to run around the pool. If they slip and are injured, an aquatic staff member attending to your child could lead to sacrificing the safety of patrons in the water.
  • Emphasize to your child that he should never address, distract, or interfere in any way with a lifeguard on duty.
  • Explain to your child that she has the right to talk to the on duty supervisor about anything.
  • Teach your child to never pretend to need help.
  • Don’t allow your child to play games that could distract a guard on duty.

Your attention to these details will send the message that you value pool safety.


No human being is drown proof!

Bystanders play an important role in drowning detection, by intervening or by notifying aquatic staff and/or
other authorities.

A drowning victim WILL:    

  • quietly slip into the water and never surface or
  • struggle at the surface of the water

A person in trouble MAY be able to wave, call out or splash. These victims are struggling to breathe and survive.

  • The victim is likely in distress
  • The victim may be able to reach for and grab a piece of equipment such as life buoy, rescue tube, hook, or something thrown or handed  to them, such as a towel, kick board, a shirt, etc.
  • The victim may be able to hold on to the item and be pulled to safety.
  • CAUTION: Ample distance must be maintained between the rescuer and the victim! Many victims are capable of pulling their rescuer under the water putting the rescuer’s life at risk.

Many people in trouble WILL NOT be able to wave, call out or splash.  These victims are struggling to breathe to survive.

The average person can hold their breath for approximately 25 seconds.

Signs of drowning [1]:

  • Arms are extending partially or fully out to the sides pressing down on the water.
  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level.
  • Head tilted back with mouth open.
  • A child’s head may fall forward.
  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus.
  • Eyes open, with fear evident on the face.
  • Hair may over forehead or eyes.
  • Not progressing or moving in any direction.
  • Vertical in water.
  • Horizontal in the water and appear to be doing the dog paddle or climbing an invisible ladder.
  • Trying to roll over on their back.
  • Floating face down at the bottom or near the surface of the water.
    [1] Complied from recognized aquatic experts and organizations



The surface struggle of a drowning person lasts 20–60 seconds before submersion.

There are numerous videos of actual people in distress and drowning.  A few links are found on the tab “Drowning Risk & Recognition.”


Upon arrival:

  • Look for a SwimSafe4Life Community Commitment Board (see top of page)
  • Look for signage. Are signs highly visible and in areas that can be seen and read by everyone? Are they legible, or faded and old?
  • Locate the emergency equipment—the emergency 9-1-1 phone, an AED, rescue tubes, a ring buoy with rope, a rescue hook, spine board, etc. Are they prominently displayed and readily (preferably immediately) accessible?
  • Look for a Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (VGBA) compliance statement.
  • Point out lifeguard stations and remind your child that the lifeguard is in charge of the pool and that she must obey the guard’s demands.
  • Be specific with your child regarding the areas of the facility that are off limits to her.
  • Walk the facility with your child. Point out the 4 x 4 lines at the bottom of the pool indicating a transition from shallow to deep water and/or, depending on your state’s code, signs and/or numbers on the pool’s edges indicating no diving and pool depth. Point out the roped areas, etc.
  • Stop at the “Pool Rules” sign and any other rules boards and review them with your child.
  • Locate and point out the restrooms, water fountains, towels, etc.
  • Look for U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices (PFDs, or life vests) for patron use.
  • Ensure the facility requires swim diapers.

For detailed information on how to evaluate the policies and procedures at a facility see: (Aquatic Director) (Aquatic Supervisor)

Check the Department of Health Services and Child Protection Services websites for regulations and laws specific to your state.


When sending your child to a day camp that includes swimming, there are critical guidelines for you to follow to ensure the camp is safe and well managed.

Talk to the camp director to ensure all counselors have in-service pool safety training, including:

  • Drowning Recognition Training
  • Understanding of the procedure and practice how to notify aquatic staff while maintaining the safety of campers

Verify that counselors are required to:

  • Review with each camper all rules for all areas of the aquatic facilities: tubes, slides, diving board, roped areas, et
    Review with each camper the procedure, established by the camp director, for escorting a camper to the restroom.
  • Ensure that each camper is swim tested by an aquatic staff member appointed by the aquatic director prior to entering any water. A camper that does NOT pass the swim test will:
    • Participate in alternative non water activities
    • Be assigned to a counselor and confined to a separate wading pool
    • Provided, fitted and wear a US Coast Guard approved personal floatation device (PFD) at all times while in or around the water
  • Restrict all interactions to their assigned campers and the camp supervisor.
  • Follow a strict hand-off protocol for their assigned campers. For the safety of ALL children, a facility must have specific rules, in writing, regarding the interaction of a parent and child while at the camp. For example, a parent must obtain approval from the camp supervisor to interact with a child. To make sure there is continuous camper supervision at all times the camp supervisor, at his discretion, will be solely responsible for the transfer of custody of a child from the counselor to the parent. The protocol is reversed when the child returns to the custody of the camp.
  • Many facilities prohibit parent/child interaction during swim time. SwimSafe4Life endorses this policy.

Confirm that campers will be given a tour of the aquatic facility prior to entering the water:

  • Identify and point out to each camper any area that is off limits.
  • Identify aquatic staff
  • Point out where on duty lifeguards are stationed and remind campers that they are permitted to interact with an on duty guard ONLY in an emergency
  • Establish the location of off-duty guards who can address questions
  • Point out the depth of all areas
  • Expose gradual and abrupt drop-off areas in the pool
  • Reveal areas with ropes, slides, and diving boards
  • Go over the emergency phone number (usually 9-1-1)
  • Identify any unique features specific to facility (e.g., lazy river, water features, etc.)
  • Point out restroom facilities that will used by campers ONLY when escorted by camp staff

Ensure that prior camp there is a mandatory joint water safety meeting between the aquatics director and all aquatic staff and the camp director and all camp staff:

  • Due to the absence of parents, counselors are campers’ first layer of safety.
  • Campers are swim tested daily. (On any given day, a child may be ill, tired, etc.)
  • Campers are easy to identify and distinguish from other children in the water.
  • Lifeguards are in charge of the pool at all times.
  • Lifeguards must observe counselors like any other patron.
  • Counselors will follow instructions of all aquatic staff.
  • All staff, camp and aquatic, must consistently follow pool rules.
  • The roles of lifeguards and counselors are clearly defined and understood by each respectively.
  • Pool time is not counselor break time.
  • Counselors MUST be assigned specific campers.

Verify that lifeguard and aquatic staff enforce all rule consistently with all patrons, counselors and campers regardless of age, status or familiarity.

The camp director must keep accurate records of training and attendance for each counselor and personally
train and review all information with any counselor not in attendance.
Make sure the camp director is required to provide the following information to the facility’s aquatic director:

  • A daily camp schedule detailing all activities prior to swimming. Depending on the submitted daily schedule, the aquatic director may prohibit campers from swimming. At the directors discretion, it may be determined that prior activities that day create an unsafe swimming environment for campers.
  • A daily camp schedule detailing the supervisor for each group.
  • A daily camp schedule detailing the numbers of counselors and campers for each group.
  • A detailed list of each camper’s age group gender
  • The camp director’s procedure for recording and verifying swim testing of each camper.
  • ANY changes in scheduled pool time—these must be pre-approved by designated aquatics staff.

Ensure the facility’s aquatic director has provided the following information to the camp director:

  • Copies of current lifeguard, first aid, CPR and AED certifications, and proof of Drowning Risk & Recognition Training within the past 12 months.
  • A written statement that the aquatic director is solely responsible for scheduling of lifeguards and supervisors.
  • A written statement that any substitution of a lifeguard or supervisor must and will be approved by the director. Substitutions will only be approved if the replacement is of equal or greater qualifications.
  • A list of aquatic staff, approved by the director, permitted to swim test campers.

A SwimSafe4Life Community Commitment Board with a SwimSafe4Life Certificate displayed at an aquatic facility demonstrates training, supervision, and safety are prioritized at the facility!

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