Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls, WI – Nearly 4,000 people die each year in the United States by drowning. Another 8,000 people, on average, are treated in an emergency room for near-drowning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s about 22 nonfatal drownings per day.

While it might seem like children would be at a higher risk for drowning at a crowded community pool,  most drownings among children ages 1 to 4 occur in home swimming pools. Among those ages 1 to 14, fatal drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death behind motor vehicle crashes.

As children and families head to pools and beaches this summer, HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals want to remind parents and caregivers to always keep an eye on kids and actively supervise them when they are in and around water. 

“A drowning child cannot cry or shout for help so simply being near your child doesn’t always mean you can get to them,” says Regi Geissler, registered nurse and emergency department manager at HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals. “You can ensure that swimming is safe and fun by following a few basic safety tips starting with keeping your eyes on your kids at all times.”

CDC studies show while most parents say they supervise their children while swimming, many acknowledge they engage in other distracting activities at the same time, such as scrolling on their phone, talking, eating, reading or taking care of another child.

HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals recommend the following tips to keep kids safe in and around water:

  • Give kids your undivided attention. Actively supervise children in and around water, without any distractions. 
  • Use the “water watcher” strategy. When there are several adults present and children are swimming, designate an adult as the “water watcher” for a certain amount of time (such as 15-minute periods) to prevent lapses in supervision.
  • Teach kids not to swim alone – buddy up. Whether you’re swimming in a community pool, backyard pool or in a lake, teach children to swim with an adult. Older, more experienced swimmers should also swim with a partner. From the first time your kids swim, teach children to never go near or in water without an adult.
  • Use proper floatation devices. Inflatable toys, rafts, air mattresses and water wings should never be used as lifesaving devices for children – those are only for fun.
  • Learn CPR. Learning cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should be on the top of your to-do list. It will give you tremendous peace of mind. 
  • Be extra careful around pool drains. Teach your children about the dangers of drain entanglement and entrapment and teach them to never play or swim near drains or suction outlets.
  • Fence it off.  Home pool owners should install four-sided isolation fences, with self-closing and self-latching gates, around backyard swimming pools. This can help keep children away from the area when they aren’t supposed to be swimming. 
  • Wear a life vest. A life jacket should be worn by children, including those who are strong swimmers, for all activities in and around natural water. Having a life vest with you, but not on you, doesn’t help if a boat tips or you accidentally fall into water.

More than 40% of drownings treated in an emergency department require hospitalization. A near-drowning incident can have lifelong consequences. Kids who survive a near-drowning may have brain damage that could result in long-term disabilities such as memory problems, learning disabilities and permanent loss of basic functioning. Even after just four to six minutes under water, the damage is usually irreversible.  

If you suspect someone is drowning, call 911 immediately. The HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital emergency department in Eau Claire, 900 W. Clairemont Ave, and the HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital emergency department in Chippewa Falls, 2661 Co. Hwy I, are open 24/7.

For more drowning prevention tips and resources, visit: www.cdc.gov/drowning/


About HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital
HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries, the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the Founding Institute, and it is an affiliate of Hospital Sisters Health System. Since 1889, it has been meeting patient needs in western Wisconsin with the latest medical innovations and technology, together with a Franciscan whole-person healing tradition.

About HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital
HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries, the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the Founding Institute, and it is an affiliate of Hospital Sisters Health System. Since 1885, it has served the people of the Chippewa Falls area with health care that is high tech and high touch. Known locally for the quality of the care it provides patients, the hospital has been recognized nationally for its outstanding patient satisfaction levels. 

About Hospital Sisters Health System
Hospital Sisters Health System’s (HSHS) mission is to reveal and embody Christ’s healing love for all people through our high quality, Franciscan health care ministry. HSHS provides state-of-the-art health care to our patients and is dedicated to serving all people, especially the most vulnerable, at each of our physician practices and 15 local hospitals in two states - Illinois (Breese, Decatur, Effingham, Greenville, Highland, Litchfield, O’Fallon, Shelbyville and Springfield) and Wisconsin (Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Oconto Falls, Sheboygan, and two in Green Bay). HSHS is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries,  and Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the founding institute. For more information about HSHS, visit www.hshs.org. For more information about Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, visit www.hospitalsisters.org.

Media Contact

Karen Kraus

Communications Department
HSHS Wisconsin
Office: (715) 717-4591
Cell: (715) 717-4747

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