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 day from becoming a family’s worst nightmare. Supervision, barriers, and emergency preparedness help keep children safe and prevent drowning.


Supervision, the first and most crucial layer of protection, means someone is always actively watching when a child is in the pool. Drowning can be a silent catastrophe, one that can happen in the few minutes it takes you 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. Children should never be allowed to swim or play near pool drains, and should be taught the danger of pool drains and pipes.


The "Water Watcher"

A Water Watcher is an adult who is assigned the role of watching all the children who are in or near the water. The Water Watcher does nothing else but focus on the children at all times. No cell phones. No books. No ear pods. If multiple adults are present, they can take turns acting as the Water Watcher. Have the Water Watcher wear a lanyard so they don’t forget whose turn it is to watch the children. A Water Watcher tag is available for download on the Resources tab.



A child should never be able to enter the pool area unaccompanied by an adult who provides supervision. Barriers physically block a child from the pool. 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 a self-closing, self-latching gate — enclosing the pool and providing no direct access to it.
• An approved pool cover which is fitted to your pool; a simple canvas covering can be a drowning hazard and can entrap a child in the water.
• Alarms on all doors and windows leading out to the pool.
• A self-closing, self-latching device on all doors that provide direct access from the home to the pool; the release mechanism must be no lower than 54 inches above the floor.

The Florida 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 tab to learn more about the Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act.



In an emergency, it is critical to have a phone nearby and immediately call 911. Everyone should know the basics of swimming, including floating and moving through the water. Formal swim lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88 percent. Organizations that provide swim lessons can be found on the Partners/Events tab.

When enjoying open bodies of water such as lakes or the ocean, children should wear life jackets, even if they know how to swim. Weaker swimmers can wear life jackets in and around pools, too. When taking a boat out for fishing or other recreational activities, life jackets should be worn by everyone on board.



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.