Hello everyone,

I'm trying to find research that would corroborate the claim that "19% of childhood drownings occur at pools with lifeguards". It's often cited and most references point to the "Drowning Prevention Foundation". Their doesn't give a citation for any research on the subject.

The only research I can find that even remotely relates is "Fatalities in swimming pools with lifeguards" Pelletier & Gilchrist 2010. They conclude that "Deaths from drownings in pools with lifeguards are uncommon, but do occur." That seems to dispute the claim.

Any help would be appreciated,


Bob Pratt

Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project

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We've done a lot of research on this subject and have never found a reliable statistic on this either. Here's our article on the subject. Look forward to seeing what others have to say!

Statistics I have found, and share with my staff every summer orientation.  

-1 Drowning takes place for every 147,000 swims in a lifeguard-supervised pool (Hunsucker, J., 2006).
-Over 500 drowning takes place in guarded pools every year in the US (ABC, 2005).
-4 out of 5 submerged victims are found by swimmers in the water not the lifeguard.
They're part of a presentation called ASI-Aquatic Scene Investigation; A Series of Events.  By KJ Design in the Inland Northwest.



I would contact Jeff Elis and Associates, They have alot of data in regards to guarded pools.  Now this data is from there clients, but I bet they could shed some light on what you are looking for. 


I hope this helps,



The best resource would be to get the CDC to start tracking whether pool drownings are occurring in lifeguarded or non-lifeguarded pools. It would be great if hospitals across the country had a streamlined questionnaire that asked those questions and info such as swimming experience, etc. That would be a great campaign for all of us to take on!

Mick Nelson with USA Swimming keeps an informal log of all drownings in the US. He gets them from news articles, the AP, google alerts, etc.. and compiles them. It is a great list and by just looking at the list it is mostly home pools, not guarded. However there are a lot of hotel pools and it does not say whether they are guarded or not. But reading the alerts that come across most of the hotel pools are not guarded, some are but most are not. The other thing you need to address is childhood usually refers to children up to age 12 then the teens begin. So that needs to be better defined.

Here in Broward County one of the highest drowning counties in the US we rarely have a drowning in a guarded pool. I have been tracking drowning deaths here since 2000 and not one drowning death in a guarded pool for the 19 and under age group. We have more water than most though with canals, lakes, oceans, there are more opportunities to access water than most places. Even our 5 and under age group are not all backyard pools. Tubs, buckets, lakes and canals are a large percentage of the places where drownings occur.

If you would like to see a copy of Mick's report just send me an email, it is on an excel spreadsheet.

I have seen this statistic everywhere, including attorney web sites. One curious thing I have found is a statistic on the CDC web site that states that in 2007 19% of all unintentional drownings occurred in swimming pools. You can see this statistic at http://www.cdc.gov/Features/dsDrowningRisks/.

Could someone have taken this statistic to mean that these drownings occurred where lifeguards were watching? I guess what I am wondering is if someone made the erroneous conclusion that drownings in pools all were lifeguard-supervised. We all know that this is not the case.

world health organization (in Guidelines for safe recreational water environments") quotes CDC survey in 2004 as 18% of all drownings occuring in pools.

I think Lisa nails it on the head, there needs to be a reliable source for tracking deah by drowning in the US, coroners track deaths and some of these come from people that go to the hospital but don't make it. Statistics from the newspaper and the internet search engines will give you some data but definitely not all of it. Even if we had the number of deaths by drowning (not heart attacks in the water) at Lifeguarded pools, what would it tell us? We already know that lapses in Lifeguard vigilence, failure to recognize people in distress and failure to act in a timely manner and provide proper care are the leading causes of damage to people in Lifeguarded pools. What we really need to know is how many near misses there are, I believe that in risk management we learn as much if not more from the near misses than the actual deaths. I once was told (sorry can't remember he source, so throw rocks if you want to) that for every death by drowning there are 4 more near misses that go to the hospital. By the way I have always had a hard time with the dateline TV show claim that every year over 500 people drown in Lifeguarded pools...


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