Water Safety and Drowning Prevention

Group of eight diverse girls and boys all wearing neon blue or orange life jackets standing on the beach posing for the camera

South Carolina Drowning Data

  • From 2016-2020, ages 0-4 had the highest rate of drowning deaths at 2.9 per 100,000 and the highest rate of nonfatal drowning hospital discharges at 23.4 per 100,000.  
  • In South Carolina, 48% of the drowning deaths from 2016-2020 have occurred in natural bodies of water (oceans and lakes) and 52% of the drowning deaths occurred in pools or unspecified locations.
  • For all age groups, males have a higher rate of drowning deaths 2.7 per 100,000 compared to females with a rate 0.6 per 100,000.
  • The coastal region had the highest nonfatal drowning rate 5.7 per 100,000 compared to the SC rate of 3.6 per 100,000.
  • Since 2016, South Carolina’s nonfatal drowning rate has decreased from 4.0 per 100,000 in 2016 to 2.7 per 100,000 in 2020.

Source: Vital Statistic for drowning deaths and Office of Revenue and Fiscal Affairs for nonfatal drowning emergency department and hospitalization data.

Swimming Safety Tips

  • Learn CPR by attending an American Red Cross Class.
  • Consider medical conditions and if a person swimming, boating, or planning to be by the water is currently taking any medications that will affect their ability to navigate the water.
  • Avoid Alcohol.  Both adults supervising children and for anyone engaging in water activities.
  • Take swim lessons and learn more about water safety through resources designed for both children and adults.  You are never too old to learn how to swim!

Pool and Open Water Safety Tips

  • Never swim alone. Enlist a trusted adult to act as the “Water Watcher” especially when children are at play near a pool, beach, or open body of water.
  • Check for hazards and signs around a designated swimming area especially near pools and natural bodies of water. Pay attention to the posted signs about open water hazards. Also look for signs that say when lifeguards will be present.
  • Install fences, barriers, covers and alarms around home pools. A pool fence should surround all sides of the pool and be at least four feet tall with self-closing and self-latching gates. Remove ladders and access to stairs that allow children to climb into pools, ponds, or other waterways.
  • Be aware of pool drains. Teach your child not to swim near pool drains or suction outlets. Visit poolsafety.gov to learn more about available resources to keep kids safe around pool drains.
  • Empty kids’ pools immediately after use. Store them upside down and out of children’s reach.

Boating Safety Tips

SC Water Safety Coalition

The South Carolina Water Safety Coalition is currently hosted by DHEC in the Division of Injury and Violence Prevention. The Water Safety Coalition discusses community initiatives and goals with statewide partners. Goals of the group include bringing awareness to water safety programs like drowning prevention programs, swim and life jacket loaner boards, and  SC Boater Education Courses.

If you would like additional information about what the coalition is doing or would like to establish a partnership, please email injury@dhec.sc.gov.