Swimming pools can bring a lot of joy to the whole family, but accidents happen when parents forget that they can also be dangerous. Approximately three hundred children under the age of five die from pool-related accidents each year. And it usually isn’t a result of negligent behavior or gross safety hazards; they happen because people aren’t educated about the risks.
Immersion injuries are terrifying for parents, so avoid them at all costs. Keep your swimming pool – whether above ground or below – safe for the entire family to enjoy.
1. Don’t leave – even for a minute!
Children can drown very easily and very quickly. Even if you only leave for a moment to get the phone or check the timer on the oven, it can provide enough time for a traumatic accident to occur. If you must go inside, insist that all of the children get out of the pool and make sure that they can’t get back in the water until you return.
2. Install a fence.
Fences around pools should be at least four feet high, and should have verticle bars placed no more than four inches apart. Horizontal slats aren’t recommended because they provide foot-holds to assist children in climbing, and the handle or latch to the gate should be at least 3.5 feet above the ground. It is even better to install a lock on the gate so that even precocious children are thwarted.
3. Purchase a pool safety cover.
Often, fences aren’t enough to keep unsupervised children out of the pool area. To make sure that your children are safe, cover the pool with a safety cover when it is not in use. They even have power safety covers that are motorized to prevent accidental removal. The swimming pool cover that you choose should be approved by ATSM and should be capable of bearing the weight of at least one adult and one child.
4. Inform babysitters.
If you have a babysitter or nanny watch your children, make sure they are aware of the safety measures regarding the pool. Show them out to open the gate and how to lock it, and how to manage the pool cover, if you have one. Families with a pool should hire sitters who are certified in First Aid, and who know what to do in the event of a drowning.
5. Talk to your children.
The kids – no matter how young – should be aware of the dangers of swimming pools. Often, the fear of accidents are enough to keep even precocious children in line. Explain that no running should occur around the pool, that no one should enter the pool without Mom or Dad, and that they should never lean over the pool to try and extract something from the water.
6. Appoint a “designated watcher” during parties.
When adults have pool parties, the children are often invited, and a distracted adult can allow accidents to happen. Rather than risk it, have the adults take turns keeping a careful watch on the pool. If there are more than six or seven children, have two adults on watch at all times.
7. Keep a telephone by the pool.
Unfortunately, accidents can happen whether or not an adult is on watch. In case of an emergency, keep a telephone by the pool so that you can dial 911 in a hurry. If a child appears to be in trouble, get the child out of the swimming pool before calling the emergency number.
8. Check the pool first.
If you notice that one of your children is missing, go directly to the pool. Drownings can occur in minutes, so time is valuable. Go all the way to the edge of the pool and scan the entire length, including along the borders. You should also be sure to check the hot tub if you have one.
9. Remove ladders.
If you have an above-ground pool, remove the ladder while the pool is not in use. If this is not possible, make sure that it is securely bolted to the ground to avoid collapsing injuries.