How Can Parents Keep Kids Safe In and Around the Pool?
Young children are very curious and love to explore and test their surroundings (which is great!). However, kids may not always fully understand their parents’ rules or the reasons these rules exist. (And let’s be honest, sometimes “breaking the rules” can seem fun.)
Therefore, while it’s important to make sure your children know to follow the pool rules, it’s also very important to ensure there are other barriers in place to keep your child safe around pools and spas; you never know when a kid’s curiosity may get the better of them and they try to access a spa or pool without anyone knowing.
Unfortunately, except for birth defects, drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children ages 1-4 in the U.S. according to the CDC. And among these children, most drowned in a home swimming pool.
But, this doesn’t mean older children and adults are free from risk. The image below shows the number of annual drowning deaths per 100,000 in the U.S. by state from 2015 to 2019.
So, let’s all do our part to teach kids about water safety and to help protect kids around pools and spas. Let’s keep these areas safe places for family fun and entertainment!
Below, we’ve listed some important pool safety tips to follow.
1. Never Leave a Child Unsupervised In or Around a Pool or Spa
Ok, I know this seems like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised how quickly and silently drowning can occur.
Even if you’re near the pool where your child is swimming, if you get distracted by looking at your cell phone, reading, or talking to another person, your child could drown in just the few moments that you’re distracted.
I know this because I remember the time a kid almost drowned at a public pool I was swimming at when I was about 14. This pool even had a lifeguard on duty.
The child’s mother was talking to a friend for only a few moments when her child fell in the pool and nobody saw it.
I happen to look over at the stairs when I saw the child staggering up the stairs seeming very disoriented, and his mother started screaming and running towards him.
Luckily, the child managed to make his way to the stairs and exit the pool before fatally drowning and ended up being ok, but this was a very scary close call that still gives me chills to this day.
Please ALWAYS watch your children closely WITHOUT any distractions while they are around pools and spas, or any body of water for that matter.
Also, make sure you have a cell phone nearby in case you need to call for help.
Consider hiring a lifeguard for pool parties
If you plan to have a pool party (such as for your child’s birthday or another event), consider hiring a lifeguard (or multiple lifeguards depending on the party size) that will keep watch over any pools and spas.
While you should still always watch your child, it can be easy to get distracted by guests at the party, and kids may be more inclined to rough house around the pool, leading to potentially dangerous conditions for them or younger children around them. It never hurts to have an extra set of eyes on the pool.
If you don’t hire a lifeguard, then make sure you always have a designated adult whose job is to actively watch the kids in the pool with no distractions. And have multiple adults able to switch this duty to allow for breaks.
2. Install a Proper Pool Fence Around Your Pool and Have an Alarm
If you have a pool and/or spa at your home, install a fence that completely surrounds all four sides of the pool/spa. The fence should be at least four feet high, and it should have a self-closing, self-latching gate.
Also, consider installing an alarm on the pool fence and on any doors in your house that can access the pool area so your child can’t slip outside unnoticed.
For above-ground pools, always lock or remove the ladder when you’re not using the pool to prevent children from climbing the ladder and falling into the pool.
How to prevent kids from climbing your pool fence
Definitely teach your child not to climb the pool fence, but because kids will be kids, let’s add more layers of protection onto your pool fence.
Be sure to keep boxes or any other objects away from the fence that could allow a kid to climb over it.
Make sure your fence is tall enough to deter children from climbing it and that they can’t reach the top bar of the fence to pull themselves up (at least 4 feet high).
Store all pool toys away from the pool area when you’re not using it, because kids may try to climb the pool fence if they see a toy that they want.
Make sure the fence is made of a strong mesh material that doesn’t have easy foot and hand holds for your child to use to climb the fence (as shown below).
In addition to installing a fence, you could also install a safety net or pool cover that is strong enough to hold a child if they were to fall onto it (see the images below).
3. Teach Your Child to Swim
Whether you teach your child swimming and water safety skills yourself or you sign your child up for swimming lessons, swimming abilities can act as another layer of protection for your child and reduce the risk of drowning.
However, even if your kid knows how to swim, you should still always watch your child around the pool because they are never drown proof.
4. Learn CPR
Knowing how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on children and adults can potentially save a life while waiting for emergency responders to arrive and take over care of drowning victims.
In fact, knowing CPR is very important regardless of whether you’re around pools. CPR can save lives in many emergency situations in which a victim is not breathing and their heart is not beating.
CPR classes are available in many communities and even online. Once you are CPR certified, make sure you renew your certification as required (usually every 1 or 2 years depending on the program).
5. Teach Your Child to Follow Pool Rules
At a minimum, your child should know and follow these pool rules:
- Never enter a pool without a parent’s permission
- Don’t swim alone
- Don’t play or swim near drains or suction outlets
- Never climb the pool fence
- Don’t run or push other kids around the pool
- No rough horseplay or holding other children under water
- Never dive in the shallow end of the pool or in areas that are not marked for diving
- Exit the pool if there’s lightening
Feel free to add your own pool rules to this list as you see fit.
6. Use Compliant Drain Covers
The suction from a pool or spa drain can be strong enough to trap even an adult.
Therefore, in addition to teaching kids to stay away from drains, you should also make sure the drain covers in your home pool and spa meet safety standards to prevent suction entrapment and drowning.
If you’re unsure about the safety standards, contact a local pool safety specialist to inspect your drains.
You can also read more about the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, named after a seven-year-old child who drown by suction entrapment in a hot tub drain. In Virginia’s case, the suction was so strong that it took two men pulling as hard as they could to free her, but unfortunately it was too late.
Let’s not let this tragedy happen to another child. Ensure that your pool or spa and any public pool you go to follows the proper safety standards in the above act.
7. Use Coast Guard-Approved Life Jackets or Flotation Devices
While pool noodles and floaties can be fun to play with, they should not be considered life-saving equipment.
If your child does not have strong swimming abilities, he/she should wear a properly fitted life jacket approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.
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Thanks for reading and familiarizing yourself with pool safety. We can all do our part to keep children safe at the pool and prevent drowning by following these simple steps:
- Always supervise children around pools and spas without distractions
- Install a pool fence around your home pool, and use alarms where appropriate
- Teach your child to swim
- Learn CPR
- Teach kids to follow pool rules
- Use compliant drain covers
- Use coast guard-approved life jackets