How to make the swimming pool safe for kids

Home swimming pools provide people with entertainment, exercise, and relief from the heat. However, they prove to be deadly hazards far too often for small children. An estimated three hundred children under the age of five die of drowning every year in private family pools, with thousands more suffering from immersion-related injuries.

Incredibly, at least one guardian is usually supervising these young victims when accidents occur, and the adults say their child was only missing for a few minutes. Although vigilant supervision is the first line of defense against pool danger, it is also recommended that pool owners use pool safety equipment. In the event that a child wanders out of sight, these devices can mean the difference between life and death.

Because small children learn to do new things every day and are exceptionally curious about their surroundings, they often stumble upon potential dangers. This is the case with swimming pools, where children are magnetically drawn because the adults they mimic enjoy them so much. While parents are attentive to their children, it is not always possible to realize that they have strayed before an accident occurs.

For this reason, it is important to install barriers and alarm systems around the pool that warn of danger. An enclosure around the pool will not only keep your children from entering unsupervised, but it will also deny access to neighborhood children you may not be aware of. Appropriate fences come in many styles to compliment pool decor, but they should always be designed to prevent easy access for children.

Fences

Choose fences that are at least four feet high and free from handholds or footholds. These structures will make it impossible for kids to climb over the fence into the pool area. Any vertical slats should be less than four inches wide so that small heads cannot be squeezed through them. The fence should come equipped with a self-closing gate that latches automatically.

Consider putting a lock near the top of the fence so that small hands cannot reach it. Every adult leaving the pool area should be instructed to make sure the gate is closed and locked. You may wish to include a sign by the gate outlining these rules for visitors. Never allow the gate to be propped open for any amount of time to avoid unsupervised swimming.

Alarms

Because many pools are located just outside of the back door, a fence may not provide adequate protection. Homes with doors that lead into the pool area should be equipped with locks and alarms. These devices sound an alarm when armed if the door is opened. Many very affordable options are available that run on electricity or batteries and can be manned via a switch or keypad. Install these alarms high on the wall so that they can be easily unarmed by adults but are out of children’s reach.

There are several other types of alarms that you may wish to include around your pool. Perimeter alarms project beams that sound a tone if they are passed and are ideally located completely around the pool inside the fencing. Surface alarms can be installed to warn of any motion in the water. However, these are not always reliable because children can get into the pool without disturbing the water appreciably by walking down the steps.

The only failsafe alarm is the personal alarm, which is worn on a child’s wrist. If the alarm comes into contact with water, be it from the pool or the bathtub, a warning sound will be activated.

Pool Covers

Another important piece of pool equipment is the pool safety cover. In recent years, the design of pool covers has changed dramatically to decrease the potential for drowning. Instead of the traditional flimsy tarp, these pieces are tightly harnessed across the pool’€™s surface. They do not allow for gaps that can be crawled under or standing water in which small children can drown. A safety cover should be able to bear at least the weight of two adults and a child in case rescue is necessary.

Although manual covers are more affordable, it is also possible to purchase a motor-operated pool cover that opens and closes in a matter of minutes. These should also comply with weight-bearing standards and should leave no gaps. Covers come in solid waterproof materials as well as mesh nets. With four-inch openings too small for a child‘s head to penetrate, these nets are reputed to discourage crawling because they are rough and offer no handholds. Ensure that any product you choose meets all of these safety standards before making a purchase.

Spas/Hot Tubs

Spas and hot tubs present unique dangers that need to be addressed. Too many deaths have resulted from entrapment in their drains. As water is pumped out of the tub, body parts of small children can become stuck to them. For this reason, experts recommend installing a device that shuts off the pump and sounds an alarm if anything becomes lodged against the drain.

Another valuable piece of spa equipment is a drain cover that prevents hair from becoming trapped. Otherwise, children with long locks can become trapped in their hair tangles inside the drain. Because children can drown in only a few inches of water, follow the same precautions with spas as you would with swimming pools.

If a disaster ever occurs, there are several pieces of rescue equipment you should keep near the pool. A shepherd’€™s hook or rope should be located nearby to pull out children that fall in. Have Coast Guard-approved life preservers available for anyone who cannot swim. Consider installing a telephone in a weatherproof box by the pool, both to avoid leaving children unsupervised while answering calls and to have it readily available in case of emergency.

Post pool rules like €œNo running, jumping, diving, etc. as well as a CPR guide by the pool. Having all of this safety equipment near your swimming pool will ensure the safety of your children and guests. Once you have taken measures to secure your pool, you and your family can enjoy it together.

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