Children's Camp Swimming Fact Sheet


Children's camps offering swimming (bathing) at swimming pools and bathing beaches owned by the camp or leased for the exclusive use of the camp must meet the requirements of Section 7-2.11(a) of Subpart 7-2 of the State Sanitary Code (SSC).

For guidance on camper swimming at off-site and wilderness locations, see the department "fact sheets" titled: "Supervision at Off-Site Bathing Facilities Used by Children's Camps" and "Criteria for use of Unauthorized Sites by Children's Camps for Swimming", respectively.


Following are required minimum components of a camp aquatics safety program which must be addressed in the camp's written plan training program and implemented:

  • Camper Swimming Ability Assessed - All campers must have their swimming ability assessed by a qualified individual. Only those qualified as Progressive Swimming Instructors, as defined in Subdivision 7-2.5(f) of Subpart 7-2 of the SSC may conduct these assessments. At minimum, assessment categories must include non-swimmer and swimmer ability levels.
  • Campers Confined to a Swimming Area Appropriate to Their Ability - The permanent swimming area must be divided into at least non-swimmer and swimmer areas.
    • Campers must be confined to the area appropriate to their assessed swimming ability.
    • Non-swimmers must be conspicuously identified to be readily distinguishable from swimmers except where non-swimmers are restricted from entering the swimmer area by a physical barrier such as a swim crib or dock, or are in a separate pool only for non-swimmers (A float line is not considered a physical barrier).
    • Non-swimmers must be restricted to water less than chest deep, except:
      • during learn-to swim-programs; or
      • when counselors directly supervise a maximum of three non-swimmers in shallow water in the non-swimmer area.
  • "Buddy System" and Method of Accounting for Bathers - The camp must describe the surveillance method they implement to account for bathers in their approved written plan. The method must include the following components:
    • A Buddy System and Board System of supervising and checking bathers. This system may be maintained on a stationary (conventional) "buddy board" or on a hand held "clip board", and include, as a minimum:
      • an accounting system which identifies each bather by name, the bather's swimming ability and the swim area to which the bather is assigned;
      • a method of recording the entry to and exit from the swim area for each bather;
      • the assignment of each bather to a buddy who must have the same level of swimming ability. If a non-swimmer is paired with a swimmer, both must remain in the non-swimmer area. One threesome is allowed per swim area. Buddies shall be instructed to notify the lifeguard when their partner is in distress or is missing; and
      • that checks of the bathers are made at least every 15 minutes. These checks must be referenced against the accounting system.
  • Bather Surveillance - Constant visual surveillance of the swimming area must be maintained. Lifeguards and counselors must be trained regarding their responsibilities at the camp waterfront.
    • One qualified lifeguard is required for every 25 bathers.
    • Counselors should be assigned to supervise specific children. The ratio of counselors to campers participating at the waterfront is 1:10 for children eight and older; 1:8 for children six and seven years old; and 1:6 for campers under six years of age.
  • Lost Swimmer Plan - Whenever a "buddy check" fails to account for the whereabouts of a bather, a lost swimmer plan must be implemented. This written plan component must include clearing the water, supervising other campers present at the waterfront and searching for the missing bather(s).

    Specific guidance on developing this plan can be found in the department's written plan guidelines for children's camps.

Supplemental Information

  1. The camp's aquatic program (waterfront) must be directly supervised by the camp's aquatic director. The Camp Aquatics Director must be qualified as described in subdivision 7-2.5(e) of Subpart 7-2 of the State Sanitary Code. When qualified as a Progressive Swimming Instructor, the Camp Aquatics Director can assess camper swimming ability (a separate Progressive Swimming Instructor is not required in this case).
  2. When all campers are treated as non-swimmers (i.e., segregated to water less than chest deep), swimming ability assessment is not required.
  3. There are many ways to visually identify non-swimmers. Commonly used identifiers include specified bathing suits or caps, wrist or head bands, t-shirts, and colored zinc-oxide sun block. The mechanism the camp selects must be included in their written plan.
  4. Children's camp lifeguards must meet the qualifications found in subdivision 7-2.5(g) of Subpart 7-2 of the SSC. Lifeguards must meet lifeguarding, first aid and CPR requirements (see department fact sheet for list of acceptable certifications) and be at least 17-years-of-age. A maximum of 20% of the required total number of lifeguards on duty may be 16-years of age. If fewer than 5 lifeguards are required (based on a 1:25 ratio), no 16-year-olds can be included in the required number of guards.