Every day another backyard pool is being opened and readied for splashing, swimming and laughing and pool safety immediately becomes the summer season priority. Swimming pools should always be happy places and unfortunately, each year many families confront swimming pool tragedies, drownings and near-drownings of young children. It’s imperative to take certain pool safety precautions to prevent these tragedies.
➀ Awareness of Who is Most at Risk Can Help You Keep Safe at the Pool
Awareness of who is most at risk poolside can help you keep pool safety a summer season priority whether it is your own pool or if you are at a friend’s house or town pool. An important Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Pool Study shows trends when things went terribly wrong.
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Pool Study Statistics & Results
- In California, Arizona and Florida, drowning was the leading cause of accidental death in and around the home for children under the age of 5.
- Seventy-five percent of the children involved in swimming pool submersion or drowning accidents were between 1 and 3 years old.
- Boys between 1 and 3 were the most likely victims of fatal drownings and near-fatal submersions in residential swimming pools.
- Most of the victims were in the presence of one or both parents when the swimming pool accident occurred.
- Nearly half of the child victims were last seen in the house before the pool accident occurred. In addition, 23% of the accident victims were last seen on the porch or patio, or in the yard.
- This means that 69% of the children who became victims in swimming pool accidents were not expected to be in or at the pool, but were found drowned or submerged in the water.
- Sixty-five percent of the accidents occurred in a pool owned by the victim’s immediate family, and 33% of the accidents occurred in pools owned by relatives or friends.
- Fewer than 2% of the pool accidents were the result of children trespassing on property where they didn’t live or belong.
- Seventy-seven percent of the swimming pool accident victims had been missing for five minutes or less when they were found in the pool, drowned or submerged.
(*Focus Group specifically in California, Arizona and Florida — states in which home swimming pools are very popular and used during much of the year. Safety issues remain the same no matter where you live, irrespective of the length of your pool season.)
➁ There is No Substitute for Adult Supervision of Toddlers
Keeping your pool safe is a priority for the summer and there is NO substitute for adult supervision of toddlers and children. The speed with which swimming pool drownings and submersions can occur is a special concern – anyone who has cared for a toddler knows how fast young children can move. Toddlers are inquisitive and impulsive, and lack a realistic sense of danger. These behaviors, coupled with a child’s ability to move quickly and unpredictably, make swimming pools particularly hazardous for households with young children.
➂ Safety Measures are “No-Compromise” Items
Educate your family or guests what poolside behavior is expected and it is mandatory poolside to keep people safe. The American Red Cross suggests owners make pool safety their priority by following these guidelines:
American Red Cross Pool Safety Suggestions
- Secure your pool with appropriate barriers. Completely surround your pool with a 4-feet high fence or barrier with a self-closing, self-latching gate. Place a safety cover on the pool or hot tub when not in use and remove any ladders or steps used for access. Consider installing a pool alarm that goes off if anyone enters the pool.
- Keep children under active supervision at all times. Stay in arm’s reach of young kids. Designate a responsible person to watch the water when people are in the pool—never allow anyone to swim alone. Have young or inexperienced swimmers wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
- Ensure everyone in the home knows how to swim well by enrolling them in age-appropriate water orientation and learn-to-swim courses
- from the Red Cross.
- Keep your pool or hot tub water clean and clear. Maintain proper chemical levels, circulation and filtration. Regularly test and adjust the chemical levels to minimize the risk of earaches, rashes or more serious diseases.
- Establish and enforce rules and safe behaviors, such as “no diving,” “stay away from drain covers,” “swim with a buddy” and “walk please.”
- Ensure everyone in the home knows how to respond to aquatic emergencies by having appropriate safety equipment and taking water safety, first aid and CPR courses from the Red Cross.
➃ Precautions for the Pool in Your Yard
Backyard Pool Party = Hire a Professional Life Guard
Family parties are filled with distractions. For the host, this can be a nightmare.
The best choice for the host…
Hire a certified professional life guard to monitor the pool for the duration of the event.
Where do you find one?
There are numerous swim companies and swim schools around Long Island that specialize in this very service.
Saf-T-Swim is one example. Do your diligence here though and pick one that suits your needs best.
Check Local Ordinances and Codes for Safety Requirements
Pool Guidelines will include requirements such as the ones below.
An outdoor swimming pool, including an in-ground, above-ground, or on-ground pool, hot tub, or spa, should be provided with a barrier which complies with the following:
- The top of the barrier should be at least 48 inches above grade, measured on the side of the barrier which faces away from the swimming pool. The maximum vertical clearance between grade and the bottom of the barrier should be 4 inches measured on the side of the barrier which faces away from the swimming pool. Where the top of the pool structure is above grade, such as an above-ground pool, the barrier may be at ground level, such as the pool structure, or mounted on top of the pool structure. Where the barrier is mounted on top of the pool structure, the maximum vertical clearance between the top of the pool structure and the bottom of the barrier should be 4 inches.
- Openings in the barrier should not allow passage of a 4-inch diameter sphere.
- Solid barriers, which do not have openings, such as a masonry and stone wall, should not contain indentations or protrusions, except for normal construction tolerances and tooled masonry joints.
- Where the barrier is composed of horizontal and vertical members, and the distance between the tops of the horizontal members is less than 45 inches, the horizontal members should be located on the swimming pool-side of the fence. Spacing between vertical members should not exceed 1-3/4 inches in width. Where there are decorative cutouts, spacing within the cutouts should not exceed 1-3/4 inches in width.
- Where the barrier is composed of horizontal and vertical members, and the distance between the tops of the horizontal members is 45 inches or more, spacing between vertical members should not exceed 4 inches. Where there are decorative cutouts, spacing within the cutouts should not exceed 1-3/4 inches in width.
- The maximum mesh size for chain-link fences should not exceed 1-3/4 inch square, unless the fence is provided with slats fastened at the top or the bottom which reduce the openings to no more than 1-3/4 inches.
- Where the barrier is composed of diagonal members, such as a lattice fence, the maximum opening formed by the diagonal members should be no more than 1-3/4 inches.
- Access gates to the pool should be equipped to accommodate a locking device. Pedestrian access gates should open outward, away from the pool, and should be self-closing and have a self-latching device. Gates other than pedestrian access gates should have a self-latching device, where the release mechanism of the self-latching device is located less than 54 inches from the bottom of the gate.
- The release mechanism should be located on the pool-side of the gate at least 3 inches below the top of the gate.
- The gate and barrier should have no opening greater than 1/2-inch within 18 inches of the release mechanism.
- Where a wall of a dwelling serves as part of the barrier, one of the following should apply:
- All doors with direct access to the pool through that wall should be equipped with an alarm which produces an audible warning when the door and its screen, if present, are opened. The alarm should sound continuously for a minimum of 30 seconds within seven seconds after the door is opened. The alarm should have a minimum sound pressure rating of 85 dBA at 10 feet, and the sound of the alarm should be distinctive from other household sounds, such as smoke alarms, telephones and doorbells. The alarm should automatically re-set under all conditions. The alarm should be equipped with manual means, such as touchpads or switches, to temporarily de-activate the alarm for a single opening of the door from either direction. Such de-activation should last for no more than 15 seconds. The de-activation touch pads or switches should be located at least 54 inches above the threshold of the door.
- The pool should be equipped with a power safety cover which complies with ASTM F1346-91.
- Other means of protection, such as self-closing doors with self-latching devices, are acceptable as long as the degree of protection afforded is not less than the protection afforded by the above.
- Where an above-ground pool structure is used as a barrier, or where the barrier is mounted on top of the pool structure, and the means of access is a ladder or steps, then:
- The ladder to the pool or steps should be capable of being secured, locked or removed to prevent access.
- The ladder or steps should be surrounded by a barrier. When the ladder or steps are secured, locked, or removed, any opening created should not allow the passage of a 4-inch diameter sphere.
These guidelines are intended to provide a means of protection against potential drownings of children under 5 years of age by restricting access to residential swimming pools, spas and hot tubs. (Check local ordinances for Exemptions: A portable spa with a safety cover which complies with ASTM F1346-91 should be exempt from the guidelines presented here. Swimming pools, hot tubs, and non-portable spas with safety covers should not be exempt from these provisions.)
➄ Checklist for Pool Ownership…
- Use non-slip materials on the pool deck, diving board and ladders.
- The steps of the pool ladder should be at least three inches wide, and the ladder should have handrails on both sides small enough for a child to grasp.
- There should be a ladder at both ends of the pool.
- Electrical equipment should be installed by a licensed electrician in accordance with local safety codes.
- Check with a professional pool contractor to be sure the depth is sufficient for a diving board or slide.
- Always put a slide in a deep area of the pool– never in shallow water.
- There should be a fence at least six feet high around all sides of the pool with a locked gate to keep children out when there is no supervision and the fence should be constructed so it is difficult to climb.
- Lawn furniture, trees, and shrubs should not be close enough to provide an easy boost over the fence.
- Avoid using a side of the house in place of fencing to keep toddlers or pets from wandering into the pool area through an open door or window.
- Mark water depths conspicuously.
- Use a safety float line where the bottom slope deepens.
- Above-ground pools:
- Install sturdy guard rails around the pool deck.
- Look for rolled rims on the metal shell to be sure the rims do not present a sharp cutting edge if someone falls.
- The access ladder to the deck should be sturdy and without protruding bolts or other sharp edges.
- The access ladder should swing up to prevent children from unauthorized entry or should be easily removable for secure storage away from the pool area.
- Check the pool and equipment periodically for cleanliness and good maintenance. Cover all sharp edges and protruding bolts; repair rickety or broken ladders and railings. Replace non-slip materials when they wear out.
- Teach children to float or swim as soon as possible.
- Always provide competent adult supervision when the pool is in use.
- No one should ever swim alone.
- Caution children against showing off and playing rough and explain the dangers of running and diving recklessly.
- Never push others into the pool.
- When using water slides, always go feet first.
- Before diving or sliding, check to be sure that other swimmers are out of the way.
- Keep rescue devices and first aid supplies near the pool.
- Teach children what to do in case of emergency. A telephone or an alarm bell that could summon help would be a good idea.
- Keep electrical appliances such as radios out of the pool area because of the hazard of electrical shock.
- Never swim after drinking alcoholic beverages, eating, or taking medications.
Keeping pool safety a summer season priority will help insure your backyard pool stays a place filled with splashing, swimming and laughing. Utilizing these guidelines and recommendations together with commonsense will help make for an enjoyable summer season and a pleasurable experience for children as well as adults . Happy Summer!
➅ Helpful Resources
What else can you do?
Contact your local Red Cross for more information on learning to swim, water safety, home pool safety, first aid and CPR classes.
Contact Safety Swim, Long Island’s #1 Swim School and Leader in Water Safety Education.
The American Red Cross and National Swimming Pool Foundation® have partnered to create an online Home Pool Essentials course that describes steps home pool owners can take to prevent tragedy and keep a well maintained pool or hot tub. The course is available at www.HomePoolEssentials.org.
Have a Pool? Take the Home Pool Essentials course online. In about two hours you will learn how to create a safer pool environment.
*Be sure your pool complies with local ordinances and codes for safety requirements.