Safe Kids North Carolina offers tips to reduce child drownings in all bodies of water

As the summer swimming season kicks into full gear, Insurance Commissioner and Safe Kids North Carolina Chair Mike Causey reminds parents and caregivers about important safety tips to reduce child drownings.

“On these warm summer days in North Carolina, many families will be drawn to activities near water,” said Commissioner Causey. “Drownings can happen so fast – before you even realize what’s happening. So, we want parents and caregivers to be particularly cautious and take steps to avoid any potential tragedies in the water.” 


According to the Centers for Disease Control, drowning is the second leading cause of death in children ages 1-14. It is the leading cause of unintentional death in children under the age of 5.

Watch for rip currents

Rip currents are a strong channel of water extending from the shore out into the water. If you see a current of choppy, off-colored water extending from the shore, steer clear. If you do get pulled out, stay calm, let the current carry you for a while and keep breathing. Don’t try to swim against the current! Gain your composure and start swimming horizontal to the shore until you’re out of the current. Once out, swim diagonally towards the shore. If you can’t make it to the shore, wave your arms and make noise so someone can see or hear you and get help.

How do rip currents form?

When waves break more strongly than others onto the shore, they can cause a circulation in the water that produces a rip current. Rip currents tend to form near a shallow point in the water, such as a sandbar, or close to jetties and piers and can happen at any beach with breaking waves. Their force is strong enough to pull the strongest swimmer out to sea.

Heed the Warning Flags

  • Red flags indicate strong surf and currents.
  • Yellow flags indicate moderate surf and currents — the water is likely to be rough but not exceedingly dangerous. Exercise caution and stay near the lifeguards.
  • Green flags indicate the ocean is calm or clear.
  • Blue or purple flags often indicate that potentially dangerous marine life (think sharks or jellyfish) are in the area or have been spotted nearby.

 Know how to swim

  • Ocean swimming is different from swimming in a pool or lake — be prepared to deal with strong surf before running in.
  • If you’re at the beach with a child or adult who can’t swim, make sure everyone has a well-fitting lifejacket.
  • The ocean floor is not flat and beaches can change drastically from year to year. When heading into the water, be aware that the ocean floor can drop off unexpectedly, so be prepared to swim in water over your head.
  • Obey the buddy system while swimming. Keep a friend nearby in case either of you ends up needing help.
  • Pick a swimming spot close to a lifeguard. Lifeguards are there for a reason — they know and can see things about the beach that most beachgoers don’t.

Pool Safety

Safe Kids North Carolina reminds parents and caregivers to take the following precautions around pools and open water:

  • Always watch children and never leave them unattended.
  • Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings.
  • Always keep a charged phone nearby.
  • Know how to perform CPR on children and adults.
  • Understand the basics of lifesaving so you can assist in an emergency.
  • Install a fence at least 4 feet high around the perimeter of the pool or spa.
  • Use self-closing and self-latching gates.
  • Ensure all pools and spas have compliant drain covers. Install an alarm on the door leading from the house to the pool.

Know the signs of drowning

Most people believe a drowning person involves flailing arms or frantic calls for help, but that scene is often incorrect. Drowning can happen quietly when a helpless person is unable to take in a breath or call for help. The CDC estimates 10% of parents watch their children drown because they don’t know what’s happening. Rescuers may have as few as 20 seconds to save a person from drowning.

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Angela Brown
Angela Brown is the author of our Business & Economy section.