Winter Water Safety

"Drowning incidents are preventable."

Sources: Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Minnesota.

Water safety isn’t just for summer!

Learn more about Winter Water Safety and ways you can stay safe in the cold.

While freezing winter temperatures keep many adults indoors, children may want to play outside all day. Each year, emergency rooms in the United States treat thousands of children for injuries related to sledding and ice skating. Frostbite is also threat for children.

Drowning incidents are preventable.

Top winter water safety tips

  1. Adult Supervision – Never turn your back on your child around water. It takes just seconds for him/her to be in serious trouble. Assign a Water Watcher so there are never questions about which adult is responsible for watching the child and be aware of the distractions unique to the winter months: holiday parties, house guests, etc.
  2. Educate Others – When traveling to relatives’ and friends’ homes they may not understand the importance of keeping gates closed, doors locked, closing toilet seats, emptying buckets, etc. Visiting family, holiday parties and celebrations can lead to breakdowns in routine supervision and effective barriers to the water. If a child is missing, look for him or her in the pool or spa first.
  3. Decoration Hazards – Decorations and lights can pose problems with young children around the house and water. Watch for lights and electrical cords around water, make sure no outside decorations provide a means for a child to climb over a fence or open a locked gate.
  4. Maintain Pools in the Winter
    – Keep pools well maintained with clear water even if it is too cold to swim. If someone falls in, they can be   seen and be helped faster.
    – Pool covers need to be drained of accumulated rain water and free of debris.
    – Ensure any pool and spa you use has compliant drain covers, and ask your pool service provider if you       do not know.
  5. Hot Tubs – Install and use a lockable safety cover on your spa. Supervision must be one adult per child due to the high temperatures and turbulence of the water in a hot tub. When young children are in the hot tub, keep the temperature below 90 degrees Fahrenheit and limit exposure to less than ten minutes.
  6. Fencing – Install a four-foot or taller fence around the pool and spa use self-closing and self-latching gates; ask your neighbors to do the same at their pools.
  7. Survival Swimming Lessons – The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states, “lessons may actually reduce the risk in drowning for children ages 1-4 years old.” Infant Swimming Resource goes beyond traditional swimming instruction, by teaching children aquatic survival skills designed to help them survive should they reach the water alone.

Thin Ice

When is ice safe? There really is no sure answer. You can’t judge the strength of ice just by its appearance, age, thickness, temperature, or whether or not the ice is covered with snow. Strength is based on all these factors. In addition the depth of water under the ice, size of the water body, water chemistry and currents, distribution of load on the ice and local climate conditions all play a factor.

  • Skate in areas that have been approved and posted for ice skating.
  • Children should always be supervised by adults.
  • Avoid skating alone; stay where others can see you.
  • Remember that ice thickness is never consistent on lakes and ponds — always beware of thin areas. Avoid cracks, seams, pressure ridges, slushy areas and darker areas that signify thinner ice. If the ice doesn’t look safe — it probably isn’t.
  • Never skate after dark in unlighted areas.

Stay off of ice. Unless a lake or pond has been checked by an adult for thickness and safety, don’t go out on the ice.


Water Safety Center