ROSLYN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The recent steamy weather has many of us trying to cool off in the water, but sadly that can lead to tragedy.

There are 4,000 fatal drownings in the U.S. every year, and that number seems to be on the rise, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Thursday.

The heat is on and with it comes the lure of pools and beaches.

“Our buildings departments are seeing pool permits go up. People are putting in pools. People are doing staycations. They are spending more time around the water,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said.

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Also on the rise are drownings across the nation and in our area, blamed in part on a lack of access to swim lessons during the pandemic.

(Photo: Leonard family)

Sounding the alarm are Stew Leonard and wife, Kim. The supermarket owners lost a 21-month-old son years ago in a backyard filled with adults.

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The Leonards now champion water safety.

“It’s not a lack of supervision. It’s lapse of supervision and a lapse on our party cost us our son’s life,” Kim Leonard said.

“You gotta have that one person who doesn’t get on their cellphone, they don’t run into the restroom. You can’t take your eyes off that kid,” Stew Leonard said.

Lifeguards at Christopher Morley Park said they often see distracted parents.

“People think it’s the kiddy pool and they’ll go easy, but I’ve seen babies, toddlers fall face down. They can’t get up. So you definitely have to be watching at any pool,” lifeguard lieutenant Louis Weissberg said.

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The Leonards are now teaching their grandchildren to swim at a year old.

“To teach them to be used to getting in the water and then learn to roll over on their back and float, they can breathe,” Stew Leonard said.

“Just like you teach a young child not to touch a hot oven or put little things in your mouth. You have to teach them not to go into the water without asking an adult,” Kim Leonard said.

It’s a vital life skill that can be taught to children as young as 6 months.

“They are mommy and me classes. They get the child used to the water and they learn basic skills,” said Lisa Dennis, Nassau County’s aquatic director.

Swim lessons are available through area YMCAs and local governments. They are often a 10-lesson series, with children learning the basics of floating by the third session.

Carolyn Gusoff