In the dry, summer Idaho heat, swimming pools are a great way to cool down and get some no-impact exercise. Kids and adults alike enjoy swimming in and relaxing around a pool. Summer time pool parties or late night swims are especially enjoyable when you own your own pool.
However, pools can be dangerous around children and those who don’t know how to swim. Roughly 5,000 children 14 and under go to the hospital because of accidental drowning-related incidents each year; 15% die and about 20% suffer from permanent neurological disability.
The homeowner can be held responsible for injuries caused in their pool by neighbors or friends. If you choose to own a swimming pool, you should follow strict safety precautions.
Know your pool:
Even before any toes touch the water, make sure the pool is up to safety standards. All pools and spas should have proper drain covers. Moved by the tragic death of a seven-year-old girl who was trapped by a drain, US Congress passed the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act requiring pools comply with this safety standard. To check if your own pool meets this requirement, call your city permit department or visit poolsafely.gov.
Pool Fences: Children can climb out a window, though a pet door, or sneak out a back door to get to the pool. To prevent small children from entering the pool area on their own, there should be a fence that completely surrounds it. Seventy-seven percent of children involved in a home-drowning accident had only been missing for five minutes or less when found in the swimming pool; 70% weren’t expected to be in or near the pool at that time. Combined with the watchful eyes of an adult, a fence is the best way to protect your child and other children who may visit or live nearby.
Pool fences should:
- Be climb-resistant and should not have anything alongside it (such as lawn furniture) that can be used to climb it.
- Be at least four feet high and have no footholds or handholds that could help a child climb it.
- Have no more than four inches between vertical slats. Chain-link fences are very easy to climb and are not recommended as pool fences. If they must be used, the diamond shape should not be bigger than 1¾ inches.
- Have a gate that is well maintained and is self-closing and self-latching. It should only open away from the pool. The latches should be higher than a child can reach – 54 inches from the bottom of the gate.
- For above-ground pools, always keep children away from steps or ladders. When the pool is not in use, lock or remove the ladders to prevent access by children.
- Ask your neighbors to do the same at their pools. Installing gate alarms, surface wave, and/or underwater alarms can help alert you if children mange to get passed the fence
At home or in public pools: swim safely.
So the heat is up, the kids are anxious and it’s time to splash. Whether you’re in the back yard or at the community pool, some basic safety tips can help your swimming adventures stay safe and enjoyable.
Never leave a child unattended in or around water. Ever. Not even for a second. This may seem like common sense, but it’s easy to become distracted and accidents happen quickly. Put your cell phone down and give them 100% of your attention. Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental injury-related death among children ages one to 14. Most drownings of children ages one to four occur in residential pools. And remember: water depth is not an accurate measure of risk; babies can drown in as little as one inch of water.
Basic water safety rules.
- Adults supervising children should know how to swim well. No exceptions.
- Establish and enforce rules of safe behaviors, such as “stay away from drain covers,” “swim with a buddy” and “walk please.”
- Enroll children around the age of two to three in swimming lessons taught by qualified instructors. Participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88% among children ages two to four.
- Make sure children don’t bring bicycles or other large toys near the pool.
- Never swim at a public pool when there is no life guard on duty.
- If a public pool seems too crowded, wait it out. A small child in trouble can go unnoticed in a loud, splashing environment. In 2013, 19% of child drowning fatalities took place in public pools with certified lifeguards on duty.
Young children should be prohibited from diving and older children should have a clear understanding of the risks of diving into shallow water. More than 850 spinal cord injuries result from diving accidents every year. Of those, more than 300 injuries occur at a home pool. And a majority of pool-related spinal cord injuries result in paralysis of all four limbs.
Know CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
Learn to perform CPR on children and adults, and update those skills regularly. Don’t depend on others to help if the time ever comes, being proactive and learning the proper technique can be the difference between life and death.
Don’t leave water in kiddie pools.
If using inflatable or portable pools, remember to empty them immediately after use. Store them upside down and out of children’s reach. These types of pools can pose a drowning risk to infants and toddlers. Portable pools make up 11% of all pool drownings for children under age five.
Watch for the “TOO” signs: Too Tired, Too Cold, Too Far from Safety, Too Much Sun, Too Much Strenuous Activity. Children (and sometimes adults!) tend to ignore these signs until the situation has gone too far, leading to muscle cramping, hypothermia or hyperthermia, and even drowning.
A day at the pool is a great way to spend time with your family, get some great exercise, and beat the summer heat. Just be sure to follow these basic swimming safety tips and stay alert when watching children. For more tips on keep your poolside adventures safe, visit www.poolsafely.gov.