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Public Health - Seattle & King County

Swim safety

Know the water, know your limits, wear a life jacket!

Beach lifeguard on duty

Swimming in pools or in lakes, rivers and ponds is a fun and great source of physical activity. If proper safety measures are not in place, swimming can also be dangerous. From 2009 to 2013, 119 drowning deaths were reported in King County; 7 of these deaths were among children ages 17 years old and younger.
...WA Department of Health, Fatal Injury Data Tables, November 2014

Swimming safety
However, drowning is preventable and can be avoided by taking the necessary precautions and following these safety tips! For more information on how to prevent drowning visit the CDC page on drowning prevention.

Know the water

  • What is the temperature? Washington lakes and rivers are cold enough to cause hypothermia, even in the summer.
  • Always check the water conditions prior to swimming, boating or participating in any water recreational activity.
  • Never dive or jump into unfamiliar water.

Know your limits

  • Learn to float, tread water, and swim.
  • Swim in lifeguarded areas.
  • ALWAYS watch children closely when they are in or near any type of water.
  • Avoid swimming during or after drinking alcohol.

Wear a life jacket

Learn to swim

Learning how to swim is an important tool for water safety and drowning prevention. King County Parks offers swim lessons at several local pools. Visit their training website to learn more about swim class options.

Benefits of swimming in a lifeguarded area

Most drownings are preventable through strategies such as restricting swimming areas, posting warning signs and fencing the perimeters of pools and waterways. Lifeguards are an essential part of these strategies, as a vast majority of drownings each year occur at unguarded locations.

  • United States Lifesaving Association estimates that the chance of drowning at a beach protected by trained lifeguards is less than one in 18 million per year.
  • Estimates indicated that today, U.S. lifeguards rescue more than an estimated 100,000 persons from drowning annually.
  • For every rescue, an effective lifeguard makes scores of preventive actions, such as warning an individual away from a dangerous area and suggesting that poor swimmers stay in shallow water.
  • The cost of each unintentional injury death is estimated at $790,000 and the comprehensive cost at $2,790,000.
  • For adults who cannot swim, as well as children, who find themselves in water over their heads, there is little time to call for help and they submerge very quickly. Such characteristics of drowning emphasize the need for lifeguards as a source for continuous surveillance and immediate action.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lifeguard Effectiveness: Report for the Working Group, 2001.

Water safety activities
  • April Pools Day
    This is an annual event where families can go to local pools to get prepared for summer water activities. Some pools offer up to one hour of free water safety instruction, elementary rescue and life jacket use; one hour free swim; and a raffle for free life jackets, free swim lessons and door prizes.

  • Washington state life jacket loaner program locations (PDF)
    • See Google map showing locations for most of the Free Life Jacket Loaner Programs in Washington state.

  • Low cost life jacket sale at Green Lake
    A sale for the whole family offering custom fit life jackets at a low price.

  • Summer Splash-Tacular
    This is a state-wide summer safety event to help everyone be more prepared for days at the beach and out on open water. Various facilities host the event featuring water safety demonstrations, water safety skills practice, life jacket education and free swim.
Water safety resources