Swim Safe: A Review of Swimming Pool Safety Guidelines

I used to know that summer has arrived by my sudden urge to go to the beach and drink smoothies.  Now that I have kids, summer’s arrival is instead marked by their incessant plea to go outside and play with water.

Summer is still technically a long ways away.  We are spoiled here in San Diego though.  Recent spells of bright sunny days has got me thinking about trips to the pool and starting swim lessons for the kids.

With thoughts of the pool, I am reminded of my son’s pool accident last year.  My son had come along with me to a backyard party where there was a pool without a fence.  Sure enough, towards the end of the party, I saw my son slip into the pool from the corner of my eye.  Without even a moment’s thought, I leapt into the pool and swam to him just as he was being pulled out.

He had been sitting on the pool edge with a few other kids.  One of the fathers sat behind them to keep close watch.  But accidents happen even under close watch.  A floating leaf or buoyant ball probably made my son inch forward just a little too much.

Afterwards, we sat by the pool for some time as I held and consoled my son.  He was still a little shocked by the experience.  My heart still raced as I stroked his head.

The incidence of drowning has declined over the years thanks to more awareness and caution.  However, drowning continues to be the second leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 19.  Toddlers and teenage boys seem to be at greatest risk.  Big surprise.

Even though I think we all understand the importance of pool safety, it’s easy to grow lax.  Especially as children get older.  The more we practice all the steps of precaution, the more it becomes habitual.  Start early in teaching ground rules for pool time.

I can’t wait for the weather to warm up even more.  The kids are beginning to beg to wear their swimsuits.  Swimming and water play is both refreshing to the soul and great exercise for the body.  As we teach our kids more about pool safety, we can help ensure that a day by the pool is always a pleasant experience.

Rules for pool use:

  • A supervising adult must always be present.
  • Toys are kept out of and away from the pool when the pool is not in use.
  • Empty blow-up pools after each use.
  • No tricycles or other riding toys at poolside.
  • No electrical appliances near the pool.
  • No diving in a pool that is not deep enough.
  • No running on the pool deck.

Guidelines for pool fences:

  • Fences should completely separate the pool from the house.
  • Do not place any furniture, plants or objects adjacent to the fence that can be used for climbing.
  • Fences should be least 4 feet high and climb-resistant with no footholds or handholds.
  • There should be no more than 4 inches between the vertical slats. Chain-link fences are not recommended as pool fences.
  • Fences should have a gate that is in good condition with a self-closing and self-latching mechanism. Latches should be higher than a child can reach – 54 inches from the bottom of the gate.  The gate should open away from the pool.

General precautions:

  • Never leave your children alone in or near the pool, even for a moment. An adult who knows CPR and is able to swim should actively supervise children.  Older children should still be supervised.
  • Practice “touch supervision”, meaning an adult is within arm’s length of the child, for all children 5 years and under who are playing in or around water.  Even if they know how to swim.  The ability to swim does not guarantee safety.
  • Be prepared. Learn CPR. Keep rescue equipment such as a shepherd’s hook and life preserver near the pool, and have your cell phone readily accessible.
  • Avoid inflatable swimming aids such as “floaties.”  They are not a substitute for approved life vests and can often give both the child and parent a false sense of security.
  • Consider swim lessons but do not let a child’s ability to swim lower your guard.  Children ages 1 to 4 do have a lower risk of drowning if they have had some formal swimming instruction.  However, ability to swim does not remove all risk of drowning.  There is also no evidence that swim lessons or water survival courses prevent drowning in babies less than 1 year.
  • Avoid entrapment. Suction from pool and spa drains can trap a swimmer underwater. Check if your pool or spa’s drains are compliant with the Pool and Spa Safety Act.  See Pool Safely for more information.
  • Consider a power safety cover that meets the standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).  Although this adds protection, it does not take the place of a pool fence.  Keep in mind that floating solar covers are not safety covers.

More resources:

Healthy Children: Swimming Pool Safety

Babyzone: Does your child need swim lessons?

Red Cross: CPR and First Aid classes

AAP: Life Jackets and Life Preservers

Pool Safely: Simple Steps Save Lives

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2 thoughts on “Swim Safe: A Review of Swimming Pool Safety Guidelines

  1. Pingback: Rescuing Myself from Facebook « Confessions of a Facebook Exile

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