How to Keep Your Pool Safe
Get serious about fences.
While a four-sided fence that separates a pool from the house and backyard may not seem “pretty,” the aesthetics of drowning are far uglier. In Ontario, the backyard pool regulations calls for property owners to fence around the pool area. Please check your local regulations for additional information on height regulations as these vary depending on your property type. The fence should not have openings or protrusions that a young child could use to get over, under, or through.
Make sure that the gate leading to your pool is self-closing and self-latching, and that it opens out. Latches should be above a child’s reach, and the space between the bottom of the fence and the ground should be less than 4 inches. Never prop open a gate to the pool area.
Build layers of protection.
The inside of your playroom looks like a cyclone hit it? No biggie. But if you have a pool, be crazy-compulsive about keeping it shipshape. When the water is clean and clear, it’s easier to see what’s happening under the surface, and you also reduce the risk of waterborne illnesses. After swim time, collect and stow all toys and floats, which can be tempting to curious kids. You should also install and maintain a pump to prevent potentially deadly puddling on your pool cover, and make sure to keep a lifesaving ring, floats, and a shepherd’s crook reaching pole in the same spot at all times.
“Kids are fast, curious, and mobile,”says Dr. Hoffman. In-ground pool alarms, motorized pool-safety covers, dead-bolt locks on back doors, four-sided pool fences, and Coast Guard–approved flotation devices are all good and vital options that can stand between your family and devastating tragedy. “You should be able to hear a buzzing noise every time the door or gate opens,” says Tom Krzmarzick, MD, medical director of the Regional Pediatric Trauma and Emergency Center at the Children’s Medical Center of Dayton. It’s safest to also invest in a sonar device that sets off an alarm when something enters the water; if that isn’t practical, get a floating alarm that goes off if the water is disturbed.
If possible, keep the pool covered when it’s not in use.
Cover your pool with a rigid safety cover (preferably a motorized one) whenever you’re not using it, even during swimming season. With an above-ground pool, remove ladders and steps when they’re not in use. Make sure the cover fits securely over the pool’s entire surface. Otherwise, a child may get under it and become trapped.
Don’t leave toys in the pool area or use chemical dispensers that look like toys.
Your child might run after a ball, for example, and trip. “I remember a 2-year-old who rode his tricycle into the pool area and fell off into the water,” says Rohit Shenoi, MD, an emergency-room physician at Texas Children’s Hospital, in Houston.
Avoid entrapment: Suction from pool and spa drains that can trap a swimmer underwater.
Few parents realize that children can die in a pool or hot tub by getting sucked down and trapped in a drain.
This federal law mandates that all public pools must have anti-entrapment drain covers installed. But always be aware of drain condition at your neighborhood pool. If you spot a broken or missing drain cover, ask your pool operator if your pool or spa drains are compliant with the Pool and Spa Safety Act.
If you have a home swimming pool, ask your pool service representative to update your drains and other suction fitting with anti-entrapment drain covers and other devices or systems. Your pool should also have at least two drains for each pump, which will reduce the powerful suction if one drain is blocked, says Dr. Shenoi. Single-drain pools, hot tubs, whirlpools, and spas should have safety vacuum-release systems, which automatically release the suction if a drain is blocked.
Other smart tips to follow: Watch your child closely and make sure she doesn’t swim or play near drains. Tie her hair back or have her wear a bathing cap, and make sure her swimsuit fits snugly, with no loose ties.