Recreation Management - Ideas and Solutions for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

June 2020


CPSC Finds Steady Rise in Fatal Child Drownings

A new report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) highlights the need for continued vigilance in combating child drownings, particularly as many families prepare to spend more time at home this summer to curb the spread of COVID-19. Child drownings remain the leading cause of unintentional death among children ages 1 to 4.

CPSC's new data shows that there were, on average, 379 reported pool- or spa-related fatal drownings per year for 2015 to 2017, involving children younger than 15 years old. Annual fatal drowning rates increased gradually between 2015 and 2017, with a spike of 395 reported fatalities involving children younger than 15 in 2017. Residential locations, such as a child's home, a family or friend's house or a neighbor's residence, made up 71% of the reported fatal drowning incidents.

"Water safety vigilance remains as important as ever, especially in light of ongoing public health concerns and community restrictions related to COVID-19," said CPSC Acting Chairman Robert Adler. "Our latest report confirms that most child drownings take place at home during the summer months. This year, with more families spending time at home, the delayed opening of many public pools and a pause on many traditional group swimming lessons, I urge everyone to take critical safety steps to reverse the upward trend in fatal child drownings."

Children younger than 5 accounted for 75% of child drownings between 2015 and 2017, 56% of which were attributed to a gap in adult supervision.

In addition to fatal drownings, CPSC's new data shows that there were an estimated 6,700 pool- or spa-related hospital emergency department-treated, nonfatal child drowning injuries each year for 2017 through 2019. That is the equivalent of 18 children every day, 365 days a year.

Pool Safely offers simple steps to parents and caregivers to prevent fatal and nonfatal drownings, and keep children safe no matter where they are spending time around water this season. With more people staying closer to home this summer, recreation, sports and fitness facilities can help spread the word to their members and users to encourage safer interaction with pools, spas and other bodies of water.

Pool Safely offers the following tips:

  • Never leave a child unattended in or near water, and always designate an adult Water Watcher. This person should not be reading, texting, using a smartphone or be otherwise distracted. In addition to pools and spas, this warning includes bathtubs, buckets, decorative ponds and fountains.
  • Layers of protection should be installed around pools and spas, including a four-sided fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate.
  • Learn how to perform CPR on children and adults. (If your organization offers CPR training, let your members know how important it is.)
  • Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments.
  • Ensure the pool or spa has drain covers that comply with federal safety standards.

Pool Safely has a Kids' Corner to keep children entertained and educated with virtual water safety games and activities, in addition to other tools to help prevent drowning.

In 2019, CPSC also released an updated report on suction entrapment incidents in swimming pools, spas and whirlpool bathtubs. The key finding is that since the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act went into effect in December 2008, there have been zero reported fatalities involving a child being entrapped on a suction outlet cover in a public pool or spa.

Learn more about CPSC drowning and entrapment reports by visiting www.poolsafely.gov.


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