With summer temperatures soaring, a cooling dip in the swimming pool seems very tempting. However, unless the necessary precautions are taken, fun can turn to tragedy in the blink of an eye. Swimming pool safety is especially important where young children are involved, but as tragedies over the years have shown, age and even swimming ability cannot guarantee safety in the water.
One of the most important components of swimming pool safety is the education of anyone who will be using the pool.
It is important that children are taught to be water safe from a very young age. This involves not only explaining to them that they should not go close to the pool unless an adult is with them, but also getting them involved in swimming lesson as soon as possible. There are numerous swimming classes being offered for parents and their babies, which not only teaches the children how to swim but is also a great way to build a bond between parent and child. Some of the vital skills taught is the ability to roll over onto the back and float, as well as the ability to hang on to the side of the pool or climb out of the pool using the stairs or ladder.
Laura Ribbins of Fitness Connection says children should also be taught what they should do if they see that someone needs help.
“The first thing they need to do is get help. Small children should never go in the water after someone. Often, this is how a double drowning occurs.” But, what happens if the person needing assistance is the adult supervising the child or what happens if they feel there is no help around?
Laura says in that situation. “Reach or Throw, Don’t Go! If you see someone in the water who needs help, you should use a reaching or throwing assist to help that victim. You should never endanger yourself by going into the water and swimming out to the victim.”
Laura says that you should have a foam noodle, a life ring or a lifejacket around the pool area. If you can throw a buoyant object and tell the swimmer in trouble to hang on and kick towards the edge, the person can stay safe. You can make your own throwing assist rescue equipment by taking an empty plastic milk jug (keep cap on) and tie it onto a rope of about eight feet long. You can practice rescues with your kids with the rescuer being standing on the edge of the pool, hold on to the end of the rope and throw the attached buoyant bottle out to the victim.
Laura says, “Reaching assists are the easiest and safest method of rescue to teach your children. Have them lie down on the deck of the pool and reach with a foam noodle to the victim. Encourage the kids to use a strong, loud voice as they yell ‘hold on with both hands and I will pull you in’.”
However, the most important safety mechanism around the pool remains being highly vigilant at all times and never leaving a child alone in the vicinity of a pool.
Barriers and alarms
Keeping a pool off limits to unaccompanied children can be a very effective way to maintain pool safety. However, there are some inherent challenges involved. As any parent can tell you, ‘child proof’ is a misnomer, with ‘child resistant’ being a rather more accurate term. Never assume that a child cannot get into a pool enclosure - if a child is missing, always look in the pool first, as seconds can make a very big difference in preventing drowning.
In order to prevent children from gaining access, a wall, fence or gate should be at least four feet high or taller, and lack any projections that would assist the child in scaling it. The slats on a fence should also be close enough together, less than four inches, to prevent a child from attempting to squeeze through the gaps. Also pay attention to any gap underneath the fence and see to it that this does not exceed four inches either, otherwise a child might be able to squeeze underneath.
The ideal gate to a pool area will be self closing and self latching to prevent forgetful adults from leaving the gate open. The gate should also open outwards, which will mean that a child pushing on a partially closed gate to gain entrance to the pool area will close it rather than open it. The latch mechanism should also be mounted on the pool side of the gate, three inches below the top of the gate, in order to make it tougher for a child to reach. Also pay attention to gaps in the gate, as it should not be possible for a child to stick an arm through the gap to reach up and release the latch.
It is also possible to fit an alarm to the gate to warn adults when a child enters the pool unattended. Systems are also available that activate when there is a sudden change in water level, as would occur when a child falls into the pool. Of course it is important that the alarm be loud enough to hear inside the house, otherwise it will not serve its purpose.
Drowning or other serious injuries can also occur due to entrapment, where hair or clothing becomes entangled in a grate underwater. Be sure that all grates in the pool are in good working order as a broken grate can easily snag clothing.
Children can also be trapped by the suction of a pool pump if they manage to seal off the outlet. Specially designed drain covers can help prevent this, as can pumps that cut out when a high level of resistance is encountered. It is also preferable that a pool be designed with more than one drain, which will prevent excess suction building up when one of the two drains are blocked.