Swimming Pools and Spas: Pool Safety For Children
According to reports by the The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP), an industry trade association, an alarming number of drowning deaths involve young children. Sadly, these deaths don’t occur in a lake, river or ocean. They occur right in the back yard in the family swimming pool.
Many of these deaths could have been avoided by using proper safety measures. Although most areas have stringent rules that require safety devices to protect persons near a pool, their effectiveness is marginal — at best — unless they are used in conjunction with various other means.
While useful, there is no alarm, fence, or cover that can match the lifesaving-effectiveness of adult supervision. Under no circumstances should young children be allowed around a swimming pool when not in the company of an adult. In most instances, the deaths noted above could have been avoided had an adult been present. A swimming pool should not be used as a babysitting tool wherein children supervise children.
When all is said and done, there is no substitute for knowing how to swim. Thus, one of the most valuable gifts that an adult can give a child is the opportunity to learn to swim – regardless if there is a pool at home. Keep in mind that not all drownings occur at home.
Many local park and recreation departments, swim clubs, and schools offer swimming lessons for a modest fee or, in some cases, for free. Private lessons for groups or individuals can also be obtained in many areas at quite reasonable rates. Check the yellow pages of your local telephone directory for sources.
While supervision and education are essential, they offer little protection to a young uninvited guest who has made his way into your backyard for a quick dip to cool off on a hot summer’s day. It is for this reason that, in all cases, access to a pool be restricted. Among the more common methods of restricting access to a pool are door locks, fencing and pool covers.
Doors and windows with direct access to the swimming pool should be equipped with safety-approved locks and latches that will restrict unauthorized access. Most of these devices cost a buck or two and can be installed in the matter of a few minutes.
Unauthorized access to one’s swimming pool can be made via areas other than windows and doors, thus, locks and latches would have little value in such instance. Therefore, fencing that is in good condition should surround the yard. In addition, all gates should have self-closing hardware and latch automatically. Locks should be installed on gates when an adult cannot be present in the area.
A means of limiting access to the pool is to install fencing around the pool. This is in addition to other fencing that may exist at property lines. This type of fencing is often composed of ornamental iron. In addition to restricting access, this style of fencing is the most ‘visually-pleasing’ by limiting view and visibility of the pool.
Another method of restricting access to a swimming pool is by installing a pool cover. There are several benefits to a swimming pool cover. When closed, it is designed to seal off every square inch of the pool. Thus, if alarms, latches or fencing should fail, the cover offers another layer of protection. In addition, a pool cover will lessen evaporation (which saves water), extends the life of chemicals, keeps the pool cleaner, reduces heat loss and increases solar gain. You get the best of all worlds.
Keep in mind that, when closed, a pool cover can puddle with water from deck washing, rain or irrigation. This water must be pumped out on a regular basis to avoid drowning in a puddle on the surface of the cover.
There are various alarms that can be installed to notify someone within earshot that unauthorized access to the pool is being attempted. Such alarms can be placed at doors, gates, and even in the water. There are also motion detection alarms that will sound off when movement in the area has been detected. Unfortunately, the latter have been known to be set off when the family pet is exploring the pool area.
Even though an adult is present doesn’t mean that supervision and safety isn’t important. A pool should always have at least one rescuing device such as a ring-shaped life preserver or a telescopic pole with a shepherd’s hook on the end. In addition, emergency life-saving instructions should be posted in a visible location close to the pool. Bear in mind that they only become important when you need them.
A clean pool is a safe pool. A dirty pool can be the source of disease and cloudy water can conceal hazards that can be the source of potential injury especially when jumping into a pool. Have the water tested frequently by a professional and keep the water in balance at all times for the healthiest swimming conditions.
Finally, teach good boundaries. Children have lots of energy and have trouble defining when they are tired or cold or have had too much sun. Supervision, sunscreen, moderation and rest will make the pool a safe and enjoyable environment for everyone.
The following Water Safety Tips courtesy of the “Simple Steps Save Lives” Program
1. Staying close, being alert and watching children in and around the pool
- Never leave a child unattended in a pool or spa and always watch your child when he or she is in or near water
- Teach children basic water safety tips
- Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments
- Have a telephone close by when you or your family is using a pool or spa
- If a child is missing, look for him or her in the pool or spa first
- Share safety instructions with family, friends and neighbors
2. Learning and practicing water safety skills
- Learn how to swim and teach your child how to swim
- Learn to perform CPR on children and adults and update those skills regularly
- Understand the basics of life-saving so that you can assist in a pool emergency
3. Having appropriate equipment for your pool or spa
- Install a four-foot or taller fence around the pool and spa and use self-closing and self-latching gates; ask your neighbors to do the same at their pools
- Install and use a lockable safety cover on your spa.
- If your house serves as a fourth side of a fence around a pool, install door alarms and always use them. For additional protection, install window guards on windows facing pools or spas.
- Install pool and gate alarms to alert you when children go near the water
- Ensure any pool and spa you use has compliant drain covers and ask your pool service provider if you don’t know.
- Maintain pool and spa covers in good working order
- Consider using a surface wave or underwater alarm