Surprising Reasons Children Drown at Home

This article is brought to us by our partners at The Children’s Board of Hillsborough County. Written By Kelley Parris, Executive Director, The Children’s Board of Hillsborough County

Drowning is the top preventable death for children under the age of 5 in the Tampa Bay area. From 2013 to 2018, 63 local children – enough to fill a school bus – have died from accidental drownings in our area.  

Babies, toddlers, and children can drown when adults take their eyes off of them for as little as 20 seconds—even if they are nowhere near a pool. Toddlers can wander into a retention pond behind a neighbor’s yard in the time it takes a caregiver to check the mail. Crawling babies can fall into a dog’s water bowl or a mop bucket while a parent is in the next room moving laundry from the washer to the dryer.

Adult supervision is the best way to make sure children are safe near any kind of water. When friends are gathered at a pool, adults are around, but their attention might be on the grill, the game, conversation, or other children. Kids often drown silently, and adults who are distracted may not notice that a child who can’t swim has fallen into the water.

It’s crucial to have an adult designated to watch the pool and all the children in it at all times. Designating a “water watcher” or hiring a professional lifeguard is the safest way to swim. 

How to keep children safe around water: 

  • Supervise at all times. Being distracted for even a few seconds can be a fatal mistake. Designate a “water watcher” who pays close attention while children are near water.
  • Be within arm’s reach. When infants and toddlers are in or around water, an adult should be within arm’s reach providing hands-on supervision, meaning the adult is close enough to rescue the child if needed.
  • Never rely on floatation devices. There is no substitute for supervision – not even flotation devices, such as water wings, inner tubes, or even life vests. An adult should supervise children in the pool at all times.
  • Install a fence with a lock and self-closing gate around your pool. The gate prevents drowning by keeping kids from reaching the pool. Check existing pool fences for tears and damage – like a small tear that a child could fit through – that need to be repaired.
  • Install door alarms. Be alerted to times when a child in your home goes outside. Most children who drown in a nearby pond or pool were last seen inside the house, and parents or caregivers thought the children were napping or playing inside.
  • Fence your yard. Fencing provides an effective barrier between children in your home and bodies of water: ponds, lakes, canals, or even drainage areas.
  • Be aware of hidden hazards inside your home. Children can drown in as little as one inch of water, meaning bathtubs, toilets and even pets’ water bowls pose a danger. 

Even one preventable child death is too many. Learn more about water safety and how to keep kids safe at