Drowning is fast, silent and preventable. This page provides helpful tips to ensure water safety at all times.
Adult supervision while swimming
Whether at the beach, in a deep pool or in an inflatable pool, young swimmers should always be supervised by a responsible adult who:
- Knows how to swim
- Has access to a reliable phone to call 911 in the event of an emergency
- Knows the location of safety equipment
- Knows basic water rescue, first aid, and CPR
Be a Water Watcher
Here is how you can be a Water Watcher:
- Make sure a responsible adult who can swim is supervising your backyard pool any time people are in the water.
- Drowning is the second leading cause of preventable death for children under 10 years of age. Backyard pools are the number one location where these drownings occur, often during a short lapse in supervision.
- Stay within arm's reach of non-swimmers.
- Be close enough to provide immediate help. All children under 5 years should always be within arm’s reach of an adult when near water or in the water.
- Stay close to the pool's edge.
- You need to be able to see or "scan" the entire surface and bottom of the pool and be able to respond quickly.
- Watch every child. Get extra help if needed.
- Watch children's faces to see if they look panicked. This could mean they are in distress. If you're having trouble keeping track of all the children, get help from another Water Watcher supervisor to help.
- Make sure weak and non-swimmers wear lifejackets or personal floatation devices.
- Lifejackets or personal floatation devices can help prevent accidents but they do not replace adult supervision.
- Ensure constant supervision. Drowning is fast and silent.
- Need a bathroom break? Time to tend to the BBQ? Want to check your phone? Designate another responsible adult as the Water Watcher in your absence. Drowning is fast. It can happen in only inches of water and in a matter of seconds!
Backyard pool safety
Did you know that:
- Backyard pools are the number one location where children drown.
- Each year in Canada, an average of 487 people die from drowning.
- Drowning can occur in as little as 10 to 20 seconds, in only centimetres of water.
Everyone using your pool should:
- Know how to swim. It's never too late to learn how to swim.
- Know which part of the pool is deep or shallow.
- Know the location of the nearest phone.
- Always swim with a buddy, never alone.
- Be sober. Alcohol and pools don't mix.
- Stay out of the pool if there's thunder, lightning, or if the bottom of the pool cannot be seen clearly.
Does your pool fence meet the City's Pool enclosure By-Laws?
- The minimum fence height allowed in Ottawa is 1.5 m or 5 feet 153 cm (60 inches).
- Every swimming pool fence gate must have a self-closing and self-latching mechanism.
Does the by-law apply to a portable pool?
- The By-law applies to any privately-owned outdoor pool of water able to hold a water depth equal to or greater than 600 mm (24 in) at any point.
- This includes ponds, blow up pools, self-inflating pools, and hot tubs.
Life jackets and pool toys
Lifejackets, personal floatation devices, water wings, "pool noodles" and other floatation devices do not keep you safe in the pool. This equipment can be fun, but it is not a replacement for adult supervision!
Lifejackets and personal floatation devices must fit correctly to work. We don't recommend water wings as they can deflate or slip, leaving a child dangling under water.
Standard safety and supervisory standards in City pools and beaches
There are safety standards so that everyone can enjoy the City’s swimming pools and beaches.
If you are unsure of how these requirements apply to you, please contact the pool before your visit.
To ensure adequate supervision and to identify people at greater risk, all swimmers need to wear a City-issued coloured wristband to get in the pool.
Non-swimmers and those who cannot pass the facility's swim test must remain in shallow water.
Each ratio below indicates the maximum number of children that one responsible person 14 years or older can supervise. The parent or guardian must be in proper bathing attire, in the water, actively participating and within arm’s reach at all times.
Supervisory standards in City pools
|5 years and under||Accompanied by parent/guardian 14 years or older who must be actively participating and within arms reach at all times||1:2||Orange|
|6 to 7||Accompanied by parent/guardian 14 years or older who must be actively participating and within arms reach at all times||1:4 or 1:6 if wearing life jackets||Orange|
|8 to 10, did not pass facility's swim test||Always accompanied by parent/guardian 14 years or older who must be actively participating and within arms reach at all times||1:4 or 1:8 if wearing life jackets||Orange|
|8 to 10, passed facility's swim test||No guardian supervision required||N/A||Green|
Supervisory standards in City beaches
|5 years and under||Accompanied by parent/guardian 14 years or older who must be actively participating and within arms reach at all times||1:2|
|6 to 7 years||1:4 or 1:6 if wearing life jackets/PFDs|
|8 to 10 years||1:4 or 1:8 if wearing life jackets/PFDs|
|11 to 13 years||Accompanied by parent/guardian 14 years or older||1:15|
High-risk people must be in a ratio of 1:1. High-risk people have a condition or illness that may put them at risk in a pool, such as frequent seizures or fainting conditions. This includes people who are unable to control their behaviour or impulses and require direct supervision. The supervisory ratios for groups of high-risk people will be determined by pool staff based on the specific needs of the people and their associated risks. We recommend you call the pool before you visit.
Safety and admission requirements for wading pools
Height requirement: 45 inches (115 cm)
Facility's swim test: Must be able to independently recover from floating on their front and back, and be able to cross the deepest part of the pool unassisted.
|Age||Admission requirements||Guardian:child ratio|
|Five years and under||Parent/guardian 14 years or older must be within arms reach at all times Child must wear a wristband||1:4|
|Six to nine years, height under 115 cm and cannot pass facility's swim test||Parent/guardian 14 years or older must be within arms reach at all times. Child must wear a wristband.||1:4|
|Six to nine years, height at least 115 cm or passes facility's swim test||Actively supervised by parent or guardian 14 years or older||n/a|
|10 years and older||No supervision, facility swim test or minimum height required||n/a|
|Age||Admission requirements||Staff:child ratio|
|Five years and under||Staff must be within arms reach at all times Child must wear a wristband||1:4|
|Six to nine years, height under 115 cm and cannot pass facility's swim test||Staff must be within arms reach at all times Child must wear a wristband||1:4|
|Six to nine years, height at least 115 cm or passes facility's swim test||Always accompanied by staff||1:10|
|10 years and older, height at least 115 cm or passes facility's swim test||Always accompanied by staff||1:15|
Each ratio above indicates the maximum number of children that one responsible person 14 years or older can supervise. They may not have any additional children under their care unless the other children are at least six years old and able to pass the facility's swim test or meet the height requirement.