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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 2014 to 2018, 87 preventable drowning deaths were reported in King County; of which 4 were among children 14 years of age and younger and 19 were among teens and young adults ages 15 to 24.
Public Health – Seattle & King County, Drowning Data, June 2019

See sources for affordable life jackets.

Life guard at a busy beach

COVID-19 update: Please check with the city, county or state parks department for beach and swimming area operating hours and closures. Parks departments will have the latest information about lifeguard availability, open water swim regulations and other operations.

Swimming safety

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 nor 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

  • It is important to wear life jackets and to make sure that life jackets fit correctly.

Learn to swim

Learning how to swim is an important tool for water safety and drowning prevention. King County Parks offers swim lessons at the Weyerhauser King County Aquatic Center. Click on their link to their current schedule.

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.

  • How to choose the right life jacket

  • 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
    • See Google map showing locations for most of the Free Life Jacket Loaner Programs in Washington state.