The summer months are everyone’s favorite time to hit the beach, riverfront, waterpark, or public pool. However, water activities unfortunately go hand-in-hand with water-related accidents, injuries, and deaths, so families have to keep health and safety at the forefront. Families should start by always swimming under lifeguard supervision, which improves safety and peace of mind.
Ohio ranks 22nd in the nation for per capita drowning, with 1.2 persons dying from drowning in the state each year for every 100,000 people living there. Further, research suggests Ohio has the 4th highest fatality rate for pool & spa drownings among children. Only states with much higher populations, like Texas, Florida, and California, have higher numbers than Ohio.
In addition to only taking children to pools, beaches, and waterparks with lifeguards, parents should also invest in swim lessons for their kids. Research indicates that children who participate in formal swimming lessons (and who graduate from swim lessons) are 88% less likely to drown than children who do not. Based on that research, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children start swimming lessons as early as age 1 to reduce their risk of drowning.
When No Lifeguard is Present, Who is Responsible?
Answering this question depends entirely on the circumstances present. If someone sustains an injury or experiences a life-threatening event at a pool, waterpark, or beach, there is certainly some responsibility involved, but determining who is responsible will hinge on the details of the event. That’s why, if you or someone you care about has been injured at a pool, waterpark, or beach, it’s best to consult your attorney for more information.
Places where water activities occur should employ lifeguards. Lifeguards are trained to respond to water emergencies, and their presence is crucial in preventing drownings and other life-threatening accidents. When lifeguards are absent, signs must be posted indicating this is the case. Further, pools, beaches, riverfront, and other water locations must be kept safe, dangerous trash (like broken glass) removed, water cleanliness levels monitored, and potential hazards kept out of the area. When these points are neglected, the city or company that operates that area may be liable.
Finally, the presence of a lifeguard does not always protect a business or local government from liability. Families who experience an accident should always consult their attorney, even when a lifeguard was present during the accident.
Waterparks and Beaches, How They’re Different from Public Pools
While public pools run by the city are almost always required to employ lifeguards, waterparks and beaches operate under different rules. Waterparks are private, for-profit institutions, so they almost always have lifeguards. However, their lifeguards may work different hours and receive different training courses than those employed by the city at local pools. As a general rule, the best waterparks are those that employ Red Cross-certified lifeguards.
Public beaches are a different story. Because of the almost endless miles of sandy beach and the numerous swimming areas, it’s challenging for lifeguards to protect all swimmers effectively. Many local, city, and county governments put their resources into staffing public pools and municipal parks with lifeguards instead. For example, Alum Creek State Park Beach is one of the most popular beaches near Columbus, but no lifeguards are present. Edgewater Beach in Cleveland, on the other hand, has lifeguards.
Local Pools, Waterparks, and Beaches that Employ Lifeguards
Ohio is known for its waterparks, public pools, inland lakes, and rivers. Residents in Columbus and Cleveland have many options, so when searching for a place to cool off with the family, it’s best to choose a public beach, waterpark, or pool that employs one or more lifeguards. Some options include:
Cleveland Metro Parks. Located on the shores of Lake Erie, the City of Cleveland operates numerous beaches and pools, many of which have lifeguards. Places to swim with lifeguard protection in Cleveland include Huntington Beach, Wallace Lake, Edgewater Beach, Villa Angela, Ledge Pool, and the Hinckley Lake Spillway. According to a local news article, this list is likely to grow because there are ongoing efforts to improve lifeguard presence at Cleveland beaches.
Cedar Point Shores. Located halfway between Cleveland and Toledo, Cedar Point Shores is one of northeast Ohio’s best waterparks. The park has lifeguards on duty during all operating hours, adding a sense of safety and security for visiting families.
The Cleveland area has several pools, including Halloran Pool, Cumberland Pool, and the Becks Pool at Madison Park.
The Big Splash. Located just outside of Columbus, the Big Splash does the name justice. This park is a weekend family favorite, a huge waterpark with multiple lifeguards on duty at all times.
Zoombezi Bay. Known for putting on various seasonal events and fun happenings that the whole family can enjoy, Zoombezi Bay has numerous water slides, pools, and frequent themed activities.
Columbus Public Pools. The City of Columbus operates numerous public pools and beaches with lifeguards on duty during all hours of operation. Such pools also offer a variety of educational programs, from swimming lessons to lifeguard training.
When an Accident Does Occur
Lifeguards make a big difference in preventing serious accidents because they are trained to respond to dangerous situations before they become serious accidents. But despite lifeguard presence and proper accident prevention techniques, accidents still happen, and knowing what to do can save a life.
In the event of an accident at a pool, waterpark, or beach, call 911 immediately and ensure those injured receive medical attention. In water-related accidents, the speed with which bystanders respond to accidents can be the difference between life or death, so be sure to respond as quickly as you can without putting your own life in danger.
Once the emergency has been addressed and EMS professionals have taken over, seek legal advice for information on liability, damages, negligence, medical costs, who’s at fault, and other factors connected to water injury, near-drowning, or fatal drowning. Call NRS Law at 855.977.6670 for more information.
 CDC. “Injury Prevention.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2001. cdc.gov
 USA Health Rankings. “Drownings.” World Life Expectancy Report, 2021. worldlifeexpectancy.com
 WKYC. “Ohio is 4th-deadliest state for pool & spa drownings among children, federal study says.” WKYC Studios, 2020. wkyc.com
 Washington Post. “New guidelines say kids should start swim lessons around age 1.” Washington Post, 2019. washingtonpost.com
 Red Cross. “Lifeguards.” Red Cross, 2022. redcross.org
 City of Cleveland. “Edgewater Beach.” City of Cleveland, 2022. clevelandmetroparks.com
 cleveland.com “Metroparks strive for safe swimming at Euclid Beach -- with or without lifeguards.” Cleveland.com, 2015. cleveland.com