Skip to main content

Drowning Prevention

Drowning is the leading cause of death for 1-4 year olds in Oklahoma. Drowning can happen within seconds, in water that’s only 2 inches deep, and is often silent. It can happen to anyone, anytime there is access to water.  

Drowning is the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion or immersion in liquid. Drowning is not always fatal.

Fatal drowning happens when the drowning results in death.

Nonfatal drowning happens when a person survives a drowning incident. Nonfatal drowning has a range of outcomes, from no injuries to very serious injuries such as brain damage or permanent disability.

Child Safety

  • Teach swim skills – Teach children to swim at an early age.
  • Install alarms – Install alarms on house doors and windows and around pool area.
  • Add layers of protection – Use self-closing, self-latching gates and follow the rule of 4 for pool fences (fencing on all 4 sides, at least 4 feet high, with no gaps bigger than 4 inches wide).
  • Watch without distractions – Adults should supervise without distractions when children are in or near water, including bathtubs, spas, and pools.
  • Never alone – Never leave a child alone near water. Check the pool first if a child is missing.
  • Stay in arm’s reach – Select an adult to stay within arm’s reach of the child.
  • Wear a life jacket – Life jackets should be used by children for all activities while in and around natural water.

Adult Safety

  • Wear a life jacket – Life jackets reduce the risk of drowning while boating for people of all ages and swimming abilities and should also be used by weaker swimmers around natural water and swimming pools.
  • Learn CPR – Your CPR skills could save someone’s life in the time it takes for paramedics to arrive.
  • Know the risks of natural waters – Lakes, rivers, and oceans have hidden hazards such as dangerous currents or waves, rocks or vegetation, and limited visibility. Check the forecast before activities in, on, or near water. Local weather conditions can change quickly and cause dangerous flash floods, strong winds, and thunderstorms with lightning strikes.
  • Avoid alcohol – Avoid drinking alcohol before or during swimming, boating, or other water activities. Alcohol impairs judgment, balance, and coordination.
  • Use the buddy system – Always swim with a buddy. Choose swimming sites that have lifeguards when possible.
  • Consider the effects of medications – Avoid swimming if you take medications that impair your balance, coordination, or judgment. These side effects increase the risk of drowning.
  • Don’t hyperventilate or hold your breath for a long time – Do not hyperventilate before swimming underwater or try to hold your breath underwater for long periods of time. This can cause you to pass out and drown.

  • The life jacket should fit snug around the chest and should not ride up on your body when in the water.
  • Straps should be pulled tight and not twisted.
  • All buckles should be fastened.
  • Check for the weight limit on the inside of the life jacket. Use the correct size based on weight.
  • Some smaller weight life jackets have a strap between the legs, too. Be sure to fasten that for extra protection.
  • Look for the label and only use life jackets that are approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.

  • Head tilted back
  • Hair over forehead
  • Body is vertical
  • Can’t wave for help
  • “Climbing ladder” motion
  • Can’t call for help

  • Yell for help
  • Call 911
  • Perform CPR


Contact Information

Mailing Address:
Oklahoma State Department of Health
Injury Prevention Service
123 Robert S. Kerr Ave., Suite 1702
Oklahoma City, OK 73102-6406

Physical Address:
Oklahoma State Department of Health
Injury Prevention Service
123 Robert S. Kerr Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK

Telephone: (405) 426-8440
Fax: (405) 900-7588