The Safety Net

Water Safety and Your Family


During the summertime, many of us are outside enjoying activities around a pool, spa, hot tub, ocean, lake, or river. It is important to always take precautions as these settings may pose drowning hazards for people with developmental disabilities. Some family members may be especially vulnerable because he or she may not swim. In some cases, the family member may have physical limitations and may need assistance from others to stay safe while in and around water. A person may have a medical condition, such as seizures or heart problems, which makes it necessary to be especially cautious while around water.

The most important precaution that families can take with loved ones who may be at risk is to provide close supervision while around bodies of water. This includes standing water around the house. Drowning can occur within just a few minutes, in as little as an inch or two of water, and silently, without a splash. Tragic accidents have occurred because of lapses in supervision, even with very brief lapses. Sometimes the person providing supervision and assistance may become distracted or interrupted.

Listed below are basic measures concerning water safety that families should follow:

  • If a family member is at risk, never leave him or her alone near water, even for a second.
  • Provide close supervision while the person is in or around water, including bathtubs; eliminate or avoid any distractions while supervising the person. This includes such things as talking with others, answering the phone, or even eating.
  • Take special precautions if the family member has a seizure condition. Because of the possible risk of your relative losing consciousness during a seizure, remain within arm’s length at all times. Other medical conditions may also warrant that special precautions be taken.
  • Infants and children should never be left alone near water. Children in baby bath seats and bath supporting rings must be within an arm’s reach every second.
  • Empty all buckets, pails, and bathtubs completely after each use, do not leave them filled and unattended.
  • With very young children, keep toilet lids down and doors to bathrooms and laundry rooms closed.
  • Non-swimmers should wear U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets when they are near water; inflatable inner tubes, ‘water wings’, and ‘noodles’ are not safety devices.
  • Swim only in designated areas of lakes, rivers, and oceans; obey all rules and posted signs. No one should swim alone.
  • Maintain safety barriers around pools, spas, and landscape ponds. This includes fences and walls, self-closing and self-latching gates that open outward and with latches above a child’s reach.
  • Use a solid, locking cover over a spa or hot tub
  • Keep basic lifesaving equipment (long handled hook and a ring buoy with a rope) and a telephone by a pool.
  • Learn CPR and know how to get emergency help – it can be a lifesaver.


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