Swimming in a pool can be lots of fun for family members of all ages, but if you’re not careful, this recreational body of water can turn deadly. Between 2005 and 2010 there were more than 3,500 accidental drownings that were non-boating related. One in five of these victims were children under the age of 15, mostly in the age range of one to four years old. 80% of these individuals were male and most of them died in home swimming pools. Don’t let this happen to your loved ones. Be proactive and make your backyard a safe oasis to relax and swim. You can create a safer environment by making sure your pool is a danger-free zone and all swimmers are aware of safety rules. Here are nine pool safety tips to keep your family safe around the water:
1. Surround Your Pool With a Fence
Install a fence that’s at least four feet high around the outside of your swimming pool and spa. Some municipalities require homeowners to have fences around their pools, so be sure that you are aware of your local laws. If you are installing a new pool, check with your local planning and zoning authorities to find out the rules in your area.
Don’t think that a fence will ruin the look of your yard, though. Fences can be attractive and add to the ambiance. You can choose from many stylish options, including:
- Wrought iron painted in a variety of colors
- Wooden pickets for a homey look
- Chain link in an array of hues
- Block or brick walls
2. Have an Automatic Closer on Your Gate
Even if you have a fence, it won’t be truly safe unless you make sure the gate automatically clasps. Trying to remember to do this yourself or relying on others to close the gate can lead to trouble, so install an automatic closing device that self-latches. The gate should open outwards for optimum safety.
3. Install an Alarm System
Alarm systems are available for your backyard pool to add another layer of safekeeping. When an object that is 15 pounds or heavier breaks the surface of the water, an alarm blares, alerting homeowners and others that someone or something has entered the pool. You might also want to consider a gate alarm as well, which provides an extra layer of protection. More sophisticated alarm systems include video surveillance, which might better suit your needs. Some states require alarms to be installed for in-ground and above-ground pools, so check this out with your local municipality.
4. Keep Drains and Other Openings Covered
Accidental drowning is not the only danger involved in swimming pools. Children can become trapped by drain suction if the openings aren’t properly covered. There are horror stories of children who have died after being pulled under by such immense suction power that adults couldn’t even break them free. Make sure your grate covers are properly sized so they fit snugly.
5. Keep Chlorine and Other Pool Chemicals Locked Up
The chemicals used to keep your pool water sparking clear can be dangerous if they fall into the wrong hands. Chlorine, muriatic acid, and other chemicals that are added to pool water to keep germs from spreading can be lethal if improperly handled. These chemicals can cause injuries to eyes, skin, and lungs. In 2012, nearly 5,000 individuals were treated for pool-chemical related injuries in emergency rooms in the United States. Some pool chemical safety tips include:
- Use goggles and/or masks when handling swimming pool chemicals
- Read directions on labels and follow directions carefully
- Lock up chemicals to protect animals and people from accidental exposure
- Keep children away from the area when you’re handling chemicals
- Don’t combine chemicals; use separately and only as directed
- Add chemicals to pool water, rather than vice versa, or you may get an unpleasant chemical reaction
6. Be Vigilant in Watching Children and Others Around the Pool
There’s a reason public pools hire lifeguards. It is not enough to casually monitor the safety of swimmers, young and old. A responsible adult should have eyes on everyone in the water at all times. This is especially true during parties or barbecues, because if no one is designated as “lifeguard” for a period of time, adults may assume someone else is watching the kids.
Drownings occur during social gatherings because people are chatting and enjoying themselves and may not notice when someone has gone under the surface of the water. The drowning victim could be a baby, toddler, or even an adult. Even strong swimmers can drown if they fall, become ill, or have too much too drink. This is why it is important to schedule lifeguarding “shifts” between your guests during these social gatherings. It might not be fun, but it could save someone’s life. Vigilance is mandatory!
7. Become Certified in CPR
You and other adults in your family should learn CPR and keep your skills current. There are classes available through places such as the American Red Cross or your local fire department. In a CPR class, you will learn the steps to save children and adults and be able to practice them with classmates and instructors.
Being certified in CPR is not only useful around the pool. This skill is good for any parent to know. CPR can save a life in a number of situations–not just drowning.
8. Enroll Your Children in Swimming Lessons
One great way to ensure the safety of your kids is to teach them to swim. You can find private or public lessons at the YMCA, at public schools, through your city’s parks and recreation departments, or you can hire a certified instructor to teach lessons in your backyard pool. Some of the beginning skills children learn in early lessons include:
- Blowing bubbles
- Playing on the steps
- Getting their face wet
- Riding on parent’s shoulders
- Going underwater
- Picking up a toy from steps or bottom of pool
- Back float
- Pushing off from the wall
- Prone glide to wall or steps
- Jumping into the water from the side of the pool
Learning the basics of swimming not only provides children with the skills to protect themselves better in the pool, but also gives them the confidence to remain calm in the face of a pool safety emergency.
9. Make Sure Everyone Knows Pool Rules
Make a list of rules for your backyard swimming pool and teach them to every swimmer who enters. Create a laminated, waterproof poster of these rules and review them with your children regularly. Some examples of ironclad rules and regulations are:
- No one swims alone
- No running around the pool
- No diving off the side
- Stay away from drain covers
- No glass containers in fenced area
- No food in the pool
You can keep everyone free from danger if you plan ahead. Your swimming pool can provide many happy times for your family members, friends, and neighbors if you make sure it’s safe. By being proactive and vigilant, they’ll be protected and you can rest assured that your family is safe.