Water Safety - Swim to Survive®

The following describes the Lifesaving Society’s Swim to Survive® Standard. More information about the program and other water safety considerations (such as lifeguarding) is available at

Instructional Considerations:

  • Students participating in water activities conducted in water deeper than chest height should meet the Swim to Survive® Standard.
  • Students who cannot meet the Swim to Survive® Standard can still participate in deep water activities as long as they are wearing a properly fitted lifejacket or personal floatation device (PFD).
  • Prior to participating in boating activities, students should demonstrate the three skills involved in the Swim to Survive® Standard while wearing a properly fitted life jacket or PFD.

Swim to Survive® Standard:

The Swim to Survive® Standard is a simple, straightforward and focused national standard that defines the minimum swimming skills needed to survive an unexpected fall into deep water. The Swim to Survive® Standard is a sequence of three skills:

Swim to Survive®  Standard = ROLL into deep water + TREAD water (1 min.) + SWIM 50m

Task Essential Skill & Rationale
Roll into water
Minimum safe depth for teaching in 2.5m or 8 ft. 4 inches.
Orient oneself at the surface after an unexpected entry.
A fall into water is distorting and a threat to normal respiration.
Tread water for 1 minute Support oneself at the surface.
Canadian waters are generally cold enough year-round to trigger a gasping reflex on unexpected immersion. The ability to tread water allows you to protect your airway while regaining control of your breathing.
Swim 50 metres Swim to safety.
Lifesaving Society research shows most drownings occur within 3 to 15 metres of safety (dock, shoreline, pool edge). Because your ability may be impaired by cold water, clothing, etc, we use a 50 m distance as a reasonable standard.

Last revised on 2 June, 2020.