Along with the fun of owning a pool comes the responsibility of making it safe, especially for young children. It's an unfortunate statistic that drowning is a leading cause of death for children across the United States and the number one cause of death for children in warm-weather states such as Florida and Arizona.
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Safety in numbers
Although the most important rule of pool safety is to never leave a young child alone in or near the pool area, it's a big mistake to think that you can prevent drownings simply by closely supervising a child in your care. Children can easily slip out of view, and a few seconds is all it takes for an accident to occur. To adequately protect children, you'll also need to install barriers and other safety devices.
Installing a fence around your pool or relying on an alarm may give you a false sense of security. Instead of relying on one form of protection, the National Pool and Spa Institute recommends installing several barriers or devices (layers of protection). Here are several ways you can make your pool safer:
- Surround the entire pool with a permanent fence that is tall enough to prevent children from easily climbing it. Your state or local authorities may require your pool fence to be a specific height (six to eight feet is a frequently recommended minimum).
- Make sure all gates are self-closing and self-latching. If the gate can be opened from the outside, make sure it is securely locked so that children can't get inside by themselves.
- Install extra locks on the doors and windows of your home that lead to the pool area. These locks should be high enough to prevent small children from reaching them.
- Install a removable pool fence inside the permanent fence or screen enclosure that surrounds your pool. This is a good option if you need an additional layer of protection temporarily (e.g., while children are young or while grandchildren are visiting).
- Attach an alarm to the side of the pool or use one that floats.
- Have a licensed professional install a safety cover that complies with industry standards and completely remove it before using the pool to prevent someone from becoming trapped underneath.
- Don't confuse a safety cover with a flimsier pool cover designed only to keep the pool cleaner or warmer--these offer no protection and may even be a safety hazard if water accumulates on them or if children slip beneath.
Other pool safety tips
- Don't rely solely on flotation devices or swimming lessons to protect a child who is within the pool enclosure or in the water.
- Clear all toys from the pool when it is not in use. Toys floating on the surface or under the water can attract young children.
- Don't allow children to play poolside with wheeled toys.
- Don't put chairs, tables, or other items close to the pool fence that can enable children to climb over the fence.
- Make sure children understand pool safety rules (e.g., teach them never to go into the pool area alone).
- Never leave your child alone in the pool area, even if it is just for a moment (e.g., when you need to answer the phone or doorbell).
- Be prepared for emergencies by mounting lifesaving devices and a phone within the pool area.
- Teach children how to dial 911 in case of an emergency.
- Keep pool chemicals out of the reach of children.
- Inspect your pool equipment regularly and make sure it operates properly. Grates, skimmers, drains, and heaters are particular areas of concern.
- If you're having a party or entertaining guests and the pool area will be open, make sure someone is posted poolside who can watch the area at all times.
Please note that this description/explanation is intended only as a guideline.