June 13, 2012
MEDIA CONTACT: Erin Gillespie,
DCF Press Secretary,
(850) 717-4450
About 100 children die each year in Florida from preventable, accidental drownings

TALLAHASSEE - The state of Florida loses more children under the age of five to drowning every year than any other state in the nation. Hundreds more experience near-drowning tragedies that can cause permanent health problems and developmental delays.

The Department of Children and Families investigates accidental drownings to determine if neglect was a factor. In all cases, drowning is preventable. Children do not drown when someone is dedicated to watching them.

"Too many children have lost their lives in tragic drowning accidents that are fully preventable," said Secretary David Wilkins. "Parents and caregivers should remember that nothing is more important than keeping your eyes on a child in the water. A child can drown in less than five minutes."

DCF and the Department of Health are partnering to prevent drownings and save children's lives. About 5,000 books that teach children how to be safe around water are being distributed to children at safety events this summer, and more than 20,000 brochures with tips on drowning prevention are being handed out to parents and other caregivers.

The Department of Health is providing free door alarms to ten counties that have the highest number of drownings for children under the age of 5. In addition, DCF has also partnered with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, which is helping to distribute 300,000 Swim Safety Postcards in English and Spanish through their members.

Unintentional drowning is the leading cause of death for children under age 4 in Florida. More than two-thirds of these deaths occurred in swimming pools. However, drownings also occur in canals, the ocean, bathtubs, toilets and buckets of water. Young children can drown in less than two inches of water and in less than five minutes, the time it takes to use the restroom or answer a telephone. Many parents have only left their child alone for a few minutes before a drowning.

"I urge Floridians and visitors to supervise children closely and keep toddlers within arms reach at swimming pools," said Florida Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong. "Pool safety is everyone's responsibility across layers of protection, which include supervision, barriers (such as alarms on doors, pool fences and locking gates), and readiness to call 911 in case of emergency."

If you are a parent, grandparent, babysitter or other caregiver, make sure you follow the water safety tips below and never, ever leave a child unattended in or near any water.

Below are more safety tips:

  • Install fencing and other barriers around your pool and check regularly to make sure they are working properly.
  • Make sure your doors have alarms and child-proof locks so that you know if a child has left the house.
  • Adults should learn to swim and also teach their children how to swim. Children from non-swimming households are eight times more likely to be at risk of drowning.
  • Remove toys, especially riding toys, away from the pool area. Children can fall off of riding tools like bicycles and into the water.
  • Never allow a child to be around any water unsupervised. That includes bathtubs, buckets, ponds, ditches, canals, pools, rivers, oceans, hot tubs and more.
  • If there are multiple adults watching children in the pool, designate one adult at a time as the official “Water Watcher,” keeping a constant eye on the children.
  • Never allow a child to supervise another child near or in water.
  • Make sure children stay away from pool drains.
  • Learn first aid and CPR for children so that you can help in the case of an emergency.

For more information on water safety and to print free "Water Watcher" tags, go to If you live in Broward, Hillsborough, Orange, Pinellas, Miami-Dade, Osceola, Palm Beach, Brevard, Charlotte or Polk counties and would like a free door alarm to protect your child, please contact your local health department at