Water Safety

While swimming pools and natural bodies of water present fun-filled opportunities for summer recreation, they can be dangerous for children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is a leading cause of accidental death in children. Infants and toddlers are a particular risk because they can drown in less than an inch of water and to not have the ability to rescue themselves. Teenage boys who overestimate their swimming skills are another high-risk group. 

Explore the information below to learn more about how to practice water safety.

Home Water Safety Tips

  • Never leave young children alone in a bathtub, even for a moment. Do not use baby bath rings. 
  • If you have an infant or toddler, install toilet-lid latches.
  • Empty buckets and bathtubs after each use—never leave them unattended.
  • If you have a pool or hot tub, use multiple layers of protection: 4-sided fencing, self-closing gate latches, pool/spa covers, and door alarms. Install anti-entrapment drain covers. Remove steps/ladders from above ground pools. Throw away or tightly cover water-chemical mixtures after use.
  • Do not let children play near wells or irrigation and drainage ditches. Install fences around these hazards.
  • Learn CPR and know how to get emergency help.
  • If a child goes missing, always check the water first. 

Common Water Hazards for Infants and Toddlers

  • Bathtubs
  • Toilets
  • Pools and hot tubs
  • Buckets, pails, or birdbaths 
  • Ice chests with melted ice
  • Irrigation ditches and wells

Water Safety Rules to Teach Your Children

Learning to swim is an important water safety precaution, but swimming lessons cannot "drown-proof" your child. Upgrade their skills every year, and make sure they are always supervised by an adult who knows CPR. Below are important water safety rules all kids should practice:

  • Never swim alone.
  • Never dive into water except when permitted by an adult.
  • Always use a life vest when boating, fishing or playing in water.
  • Don't use inflatable toys or mattresses in water that is too deep.

Life Jacket Safety

If your family enjoys spending time on the water, be sure your children wear the correct life jacket. Below are tips for correctly choosing and wearing life jackets:

  • Use only life jackets and life preservers that are tested by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and approved by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).
  • Choose one rated for your weight and activity. 
  • Choose a life jacket with a flotation collar and strap between the legs for small children.
  • Check life jacket for proper fit: Fasten all zippers, straps and ties. The jacket should fit snugly. Pull up on the shoulders of the life jacket—the ears and chin should not slip through.
  • Wear life jackets at all times on or near the water.
  • Do not use blow-up water wings, toys, rafts, air mattresses, boat cushions or rescue rings in lieu of life jackets.
  • Remember that life jackets are never a substitute for adult supervision. Designate a "water watcher" and rotate that responsibility among the adults, to minimize distraction. 

Washington Boating Laws

To keep your family safe when out on the water, it’s important to be aware of your state’s boating laws. Below are some of the requirements for Washington state:

  • Boaters must earn a "Washington State Boater Education Card" before operating any power-driven vessel of 15 hp or greater, and be at least 12 years old. 
  • To operate a personal watercraft (i.e. jet ski) they must be at least 14 years old. 
  • Each person onboard a personal watercraft, or being towed behind a vessel, must wear a U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)-approved life jacket.
  • Children up to age 12 must wear a USCG-approved life jacket when on a vessel less than 19 feet in length.
  • All vessels (including canoe, kayaks, and paddleboards) must have at least one USCG-approved life jacket for each person on board. 


Learn more about our free life jacket loan program or contact us for more information about water safety. Visit www.boat.wa.gov to learn more about boating regulations.