Think About Pool Safety
As per the CDC (Center for Disease Control), drowning ranks 5th among the leading causes of unintentional death in the United States. Each day, at least 10 people die from unintentional drowning. For every child who dies from drowning, another 5 receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.
Three of the leading causes of accidental death in children under 5 years of age are motor vehicle accidents with child pedestrians, fires, and drownings. In 2003 alone, 102 people died at home drowning incidents and the majority were children just 1 to 4 years old.
Drowning risk factors are found to mainly be: lack of fences or barriers to prevent unsupervised water access, a lack of swimming ability, insufficient supervision, location of the water, failure to wear flotation or life jackets, use of alcohol, seizure disorders, and entrapment caused by exposed suction outlets (drains).
While a pool is a fun thing to have, and a luxury for many, it is of great importance to make it as safe as possible for children. Having a fence around your pool area can be a deterrent to most; however, studies have shown that kids can be twice as likely to drown in a fenced-in pool because it can create a false sense of security. At least 70% of children drowning occurred in pools that were fenced in.
Adult supervision is also fallible. In the US, 90% of children lost to drowning in a pool were being watched by their parents. To make your pool safer, there are steps you can take as a responsible pool owner to create layers of safety. Layers of safety mean that multiple safety measures are in place.
Optimal layers of safety to include are:
- A four-sided 4’ fence with a self-latching spring-loaded gate that can also automatically lock into place should completely separate the pool area from the rest of the yard. The gates should open outward with latches that are difficult to access by children.
- Install a gate alarm at the entrance to your pool area to alert when someone enters the area.
- Use a subsurface pool alarm system that can sound an alert if anyone, especially a child, enters the pool without notice.
- Keep the pool area and deck clear of tempting toys. Remove any colorful balls, floats, and other toys after each use to deter kids from wanting to get to them.
- Installation of a quality pool net that can withstand a child’s weight above the water can help.
Learn safe behaviors and be knowledgeable about the following safety measures:
- Do not be distracted when children are in, or near the pool. Adult activities such as phone use, reading, or other distractions should be avoided when children are present. Be close enough to reach the children at all times.
- Instruct all children and older kids to use the buddy system and to always have one or more friends around with them near the pool that can assist, call, or run for help when needed.
- Using life jackets can greatly reduce the risk of drowning. Floating rafts or air-filled toys are not safety devices. Never rely on “swimmies”, “water wings”, or pool “noodles” as protection without close supervision. These are toys and not life jackets at all, as they are not designed to be.
- Learn how to perform Child Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), adult CPR, and general First Aid. Every second counts in an emergency and the faster CPR is started increases the chance of an improved outcome. During the time it can take for paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills could save a life.
- Schedule swimming lessons for your children and encourage all of your neighbors with kids to do the same. Keep in mind though, that even when children are formally taught to swim they still need close supervision.
- Avoiding alcoholic beverages or ensuring strict moderation at all times near water can decrease the chance of drowning. Do not drink alcohol while supervising children.
- Be aware of the health of your family and friends who visit. If a friend or family member has a seizure disorder, stronger supervision needs to be provided when around water. The onset of a seizure while in the swimming pool can be dangerous and everyone needs to be prepared.
- Closely follow Entrapment Avoidance Guidelines. The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP) has created guidelines that govern the proper drain and suction outlet covering solutions. An exposed suction outlet or drain can be seriously dangerous to children as well as adults. All drains shall be protected by an approved cover and if any cover is broken, loose, or missing – the pool must be immediately closed. An APSP professional should then be called to sure the pool is compliant with the ANSI/APSP-7 2006 Standard for Suction Entrapment Avoidance in Swimming Pools, Wading Pools, Spas, Hot Tubs, and Catch Basins.
Tips for drain cover safety:
- Do not run your pool pump at higher speeds than the recommended maximum because increased water velocity can increase the chance of suction entrapment.
- Verify that the emergency shut-off switch is marked clearly and easily visible in the pool area in order for it to be located within seconds.
- Advise swimmers to avoid playing or swimming near any drains and suction fittings – it could prove to be potentially fatal.
- Regularly have your pool inspected by a licensed aquatic industry professional. He or she can advise you of any safety concerns and any needed repairs.
Understand the laws in your area that govern pool ownership.
The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act was signed into law on Dec. 19, 2007, to establish minimum standards for pool safety, including the installation and retrofitting of commercial and private pool and spa drain covers. The law addresses the number of drowning deaths that occurred annually prior to its implementation as a result of underwater entrapment in or around submerged drains, including that of the granddaughter of former Secretary of State, James Baker III, for whom the law is named [source:PoolSafety.gov].
The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) as well as the Attorneys General for each state is empowered to enforce and monitor compliance with the swimming pool safety act, work in concert to address concerns about pool safety, and educate the public about safe pool maintenance practices. The program is funded by federal grants provided to participating states.
The pool safety and swimming safety standards mentioned here are specific to federally mandated minimums, but your state may have more stringent or additional rules in place. If you own a pool or spa, use a public pool or spa facilities, or are considering a pool purchase, familiarize yourself with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act as well as the pool safety rules and regulations for your state and municipality.