If you have a pool anywhere on your property, you need to take extra precautions to prevent drowning and keep your children safe. Here are some guidelines to address the obvious and not so obvious pool dangers:
Pool Safety Tip #1: Installing A Pool Fence
Every pool should be surrounded by a fence with a self-locking mechanism on the gate that automatically locks when it latches. Ideally, it should be a bar fence at least 6 feet high. Avoid chain link or other similar fences, which children climb with ease. As one Arizona firefighter and pool safety expert warns: “If you have a child under 6-years-old, and you have a pool with no fence around it, you’re simply playing Russian roulette with that child’s life.” (ABC15NEWS Phoenix, 6-22-2008)
However, don’t assume that installing a fence means you’re in the clear. It’s a necessary precaution that lowers the risk, but it does not make your pool drown-proof. Gates can be left open, and even the best fences are sometimes breached by curious kids. In fact, tests have shown that the average 3-year-old can climb a pool fence in 34 seconds. Keep the area around the fence clear of toys, tables, or other debris that could be stacked up and climbed on to scale the fence.
Pool Safety Tip #2: Install Pool Alarms/Pool Phone
Fences and pool covers may not be enough. It’s a good idea to add additional peace of mind by adding pool alarms or alarms on the doorways that give access to water areas. Test these devices periodically to ensure they are in working order. It’s also a good idea to install a phone line or keep an extra phone by the pool to be used for emergencies.
Pool Safety Tip #3: Pick Up the Toys
Bright and shiny pool toys or colorful floatation devices (which are often shaped like animals) make for an irresistible lure to a small child. Thus, it’s important to keep all toys picked up around the pool and put away any other swimming aids when not in use, so they are not tempting little ones.
Pool Safety Tip #4: Children Injured by Pool Drain Pipes
A hidden danger may be lurking at the bottom of your pool: the drain pipe. Since 1990 there have been at least 103 injuries and 27 deaths involving children trapped by drain pipes at the bottom of a pool. These incidents are as horrific as they are tragic. Children have been disemboweled or had their intestines sucked out through their anus after being caught on a drain pipe. Six-year-old Abigail Taylor was one such tragedy. After sitting on a drain in a wading pool at the Minneapolis Golf Club in the suburb of St. Louis Park, its powerful suction tore a 2 inch tear in her rectum before ripping out part of her intestinal track. She died many months later from complications during a surgery attempting to repair the damage.
The other scenario is that children get their hair caught in the pipe or otherwise become trapped by the suction, and simply drown. One experiment showed it could take 4 grown men to pull a child off the bottom of a pool if the plug wasn’t fixed with the proper safety device. This is what happened to the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker. The 7-year-old was pinned by the suction of a drain in 2002 and drowned, prompting the enactment of the Virginia Greene Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. Making matters worse, kids are often compelled to explore the drain pipes, since it’s the only thing at the bottom of the pool.
The good news is that this danger can be easily fixed by installing safety covers over the drains. It is now illegal to manufacture, sale or distribute drain covers that don’t meet anti-entrapment safety standards. The bad news is that many pools remain unfixed, and children continue to die or be seriously injured by unprotected drain pipes. If you’re unsure about whether your drains are safe, have a pool maintenance technician check things out.
Pool Safety Tip #5: The Dangers of Pool Chemicals
Be sure to keep all chlorine and other pool/hot-tub chemicals locked away and out of the reach of children. In its undiluted form, merely inhaling concentrated pool chlorine can cause permanent damage to a child’s respiratory system, and may even be deadly. A man from Nebraska found this out the hard way, when not realizing the potential danger, he asked his 5-year-old nephew and a 7-year-old friend to smell it on a dare. Both boys ended up in the emergency room. While the 7-year-old recovered, the 5-year-old would be in intensive care for over a week. (USA Today, 7-18-08, p. 5A) The Uncle was arrested on two counts of misdemeanor child abuse, but thankfully, no children were killed. Let this be a lesson for everyone else: water treatment chemicals for pools and hot-tubs can be some of the most toxic things you have around your house, so treat them accordingly.
Pool Safety Tip #6: Remember Pool Safety Awareness Year-Round
Finally, remember that the pool is still there even when the weather turns cold. Once you stop using the pool, cover it immediately, but remember that curious kids can still slip underneath pool covers. You need to remain vigilant and watchful year round.
Water Safety printable book
A Fun and entertaining children’s book that teaches kids some basic principles on water safety. Recommended for kids ages 4-10.