The Layers of Protection

Pool time can be a lot of fun, but it’s important to incorporate layers of protection to prevent a fun summer day from becoming a family’s worst nightmare. Supervision, barriers and emergency preparedness serve as a safety net, keeping a child safe and helping to prevent a drowning.



Drowning can be a silent catastrophe, one that can happen in the few minutes you take to answer a phone call or run inside for a towel. For children ages 1–4, the majority of drownings occur in residential swimming pools. Supervision, the first and most crucial layer of protection, means someone is always actively watching when a child is in the pool.

The "Backyard Barbecue" Scenario
Imagine a barbecue with friends and neighbors gathered around the pool, eating and drinking, while the kids splash in the pool. But who’s watching the kids? Everyone, right? Or no one. In a situation like this, it’s easy to assume someone else is watching. DON’T ASSUME. At every moment, make sure someone is assigned the role of "water watcher" and does nothing else but focus on the children at all times.

The "In the House" Scenario
When you get home after a long day at work, there are many things that need to get done around the house: laundry, cleaning, cooking, packing school lunches. It can be very easy for a parent to be distracted by chores. As the parents are busy around the house, they may open a backyard door and forget to close it, leaving an opportunity for a small child to wander outdoors and easily gain entry into the pool. That is why barriers are so important. Incorporating childproof locks, door alarms and a pool gate sets obstacles between a child and the pool, making it more difficult to gain access and alerting parents when a child opens a door and is outside.


A child should never be able to enter the pool area unaccompanied by a guardian. Barriers physically block a child from the pool. Barriers include: child-proof locks on all doors, a pool fence with self-latching and self-closing gates, as well as door and pool alarms. Pool covers may also be used but make sure it is a professional cover, fitted for your pool. A simple canvas covering can be a drowning hazard and entrap a child in the water.


The moment a child stops breathing there is a small, precious window of time in which resuscitation may occur, but only if someone knows what to do. Even if you’re not a parent, it’s important to learn CPR. The techniques are easy to learn and can mean the difference between life and death. In an emergency, it is critical to have a phone nearby and immediately call 911.

The Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act (Chapter 515, Florida Statutes) requires one of the following pool safety measures for pools built after October 1, 2000:
  • A pool fence with self-closing, self-latching gate — enclosing the pool and providing no direct access to it.

  • An approved pool cover.

  • Alarms on all doors and windows leading out to the pool.

  • All doors providing direct access from the home to pool to have a self-closing, self-latching device with a release mechanism no lower than 54 inches above the floor.

The Department of Health recommends, at a minimum, using a combination of the barriers described above to help ensure your pool is equipped with approved safety features. Please see the Requirements Page to learn more about the Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act.



Florida leads the country in drowning deaths of children ages 1-4.

Over 90% of Florida’s home swimming pools were built before the Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act took effect.

Download the WaterSmartFL Facts handout and other materials to learn more.