A swimming pool is a great way to cool down on a hot summer day. And with school out and long, sunny summer evenings, pool parties are on the rise. Of course, with more swimming comes greater safety concerns. Drowning is still the number one cause of accidental death in children one to four years old. So before you break out the grill and get ready to party poolside, consider these summer pool safety tips.
Learn What Drowning Looks Like
It is a sad fact that the number one cause of accidental death in children one to four years old is drowning. But it may come as a surprise just how easily a child can drown. It only takes a few inches of water, just enough to cover the face of a child when face down. And it can happen quietly.
You may imagine that drowning involves a lot of flapping, waving of arms, and yelling. In fact, a person who is drowning is neither capable of moving their arms or shouting. If a person is doing those things, they are not drowning yet. That stage is called aquatic distress and obviously requires rapid intervention to prevent drowning. But once a person is drowning, they will be mostly still and quiet.
So what should you look for?
- Head low in the water, mouth at water level
- Head tilted back with mouth open
- Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
- Eyes closed
- Hair over forehead or eyes
- Not using legs—vertical
- Hyperventilating or gasping
- Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
- Trying to roll over on the back
- Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder
For more very important information on what drowning looks like, check out this article from Slate Magazine.
Even if you know exactly what drowning looks like if you’re not watching you won’t see it. We all know that children need supervision when swimming. However, people often underestimate the amount of supervision required. For one thing, knowing how to swim does not prevent someone from drowning. So even if children know how to swim, they need to be watched.
Another issue can come from having too much supervision. At a pool party, there may be a whole bunch of kids and adults enjoying the pool. With so many adults, it would seem impossible for a child to get into trouble without somebody noticing. However, if each adult is relying on the other adults to notice a problem, then no adult is really watching. So when you have a group of children and adults at a pool, make sure that one adult is designated to watch the pool and everyone in it for any signs of distress.
Along with supervision comes rules. Some of these may seem familiar from your days at the public pool, with the lifeguard shouting them out at errant children. But they exist for a reason and should be enforced. Experts suggest the following rules:
- No running on the pool deck
- No tricycles or other ride-on toys near the pool
- No diving (unless a pool is extra deep and made for diving)
- No electrical appliances, like radios or electronic children’s toys, near the pool
By enforcing a few simple rules, you can prevent many of the most common ways that people are injured in swimming pools.
Keep the Pool Covered When Not in Use
When it’s time to take a break and head inside or to another part of the yard, the pool should be secured. No one should be able to wander into the pool undetected. There are several layers of protection that can help achieve this goal. First, protect the pool itself with a cover. Second, protect the area with a fence and locked gate. Third, you can secure the entire backyard with alarms on doors that lead outside.
Pool covers can be a huge factor in pool safety. Floating solar covers are not safety covers. To be a safety cover, a pool cover must fit tight enough and be strong enough that an adult could walk on it and not fall through. The cover should go right up to or over the edge of the pool so that there is no chance a little one could wiggle through. A pool cover shouldn’t just make it hard to get into the pool. It should make it impossible. Often, pool owners don’t throw on a pool cover unless they are closing up the pool for the day. To encourage consistent use of a pool cover, consider installing an automatic pool cover. Automatic pool covers work with the flip of a switch. When turned on, the cover automatically extends out of the pool, securing it from anyone falling in.
Pool Gates, Fences, and Alarms
The second layer of security around a pool is a tall fence with a locked gate. Many areas, including Atlanta, require that pools are completely fenced in. In Atlanta, your house can count as one side of the fence. However, if your house is one side of the fence, the door or doors leading from the house directly to the pool area must be fitted with an alarm.
A pool fence must be at least four feet tall and begin no more than four inches from the ground. If there are slats, the openings between slats cannot exceed 4 inches. The gate to the pool must open outwards, away from the pool, and its latch must be at least four feet from the ground. If the fence is no more than four feet, then the latch must be within 6 inches of the top. Chain link fences cannot have openings of more than 1.75 inches. All of this is to say that a pool should be fenced in a way that it cannot be climbed over, under, or through, even by small children.
The final layer of security would be placing an alarm on doors to the pool area (or on the gate to the pool). Alarms are only required by law for doors leading directly to the pool area. However, if you have young children, it may be smart to alarm doors leading to the outdoors area even if there is a fence between the door and the pool. Fence gates can also be alarmed so that an adult is immediately notified if a child is attempting to get through the gate.
Be Prepared to Save a Life
If you own a pool or spend a lot of time around the water, it pays to know how to save a life. This means having the right tools and knowledge in case of an emergency.
If you own a pool, make sure that you have life-saving equipment on hand and readily available. Make sure that you have a floatation device with a rope attached, in case someone is drowning. For smaller pools, a life hook is perfect. A life hook is a large hook that attaches to your pool pole (or another pole that comes with it) and can be used to reach out and snag a person in distress, even if they don’t have the ability to grab onto a floatation device.
It is a good idea for adults and older children to be first-aid certified, with the appropriate skills to perform CPR is necessary. Also, make sure that a phone is always nearby in case someone needs to call 911. Even young children can be trained to make an emergency call that could save a life.
Make Sure Your Pool is Safe
If you want to make sure your pool is safe, The Pool Butler will be happy to help! We can help maintain your pool so that the water is clean, and the pool floor and deck are not slippery. We can also help with the installation of motorized pool covers and pool alarms. Just contact us to learn more. Here’s to a safe summer swim season!