A swimming pool is a pleasure. Owning a swimming pool gives you the option of a discrete late-night dip, a boisterous pool party, or some focused exercise. But whatever you use your pool for, the main responsibility of owning a pool is safety. Yes, it’s important to keep your pool water balanced and your filter clean. But none of that matters in case of the unthinkable. Above all else, your pool should be treated not just as a plaything but as a potential hazard. Luckily, with the right precautions—a safety fence is just one option—you don’t have to spend too much time thinking about what could happen. You can get to enjoying your pool safely alone, with family, or with friends.
Basic Pool Safety Precautions
Owning a pool is a joy, but it is also a responsibility. If you have a pool in your backyard, you need to be familiar with appropriate safety measures and make sure that they are always in place.
First of all, avoid swimming alone. Of course, there will be times when you just want to step outside for a nice quiet dip, but swimming alone means there is no one to help you in case of an emergency. Tell someone first if you plan on solo swimming. And never, ever let children around a pool unsupervised. Even children who know how to swim can get into trouble in a pool. If your child is playing near a pool, make sure an adult is supervising at all times. Learn to recognize drowning (it usually doesn’t look like splashing and screaming).
Second, be prepared to save a life. Make sure you have the right equipment, such as a safety hook and a floatation device. They should be accessible and easy to get to at all times. Make sure there is always a phone around when you swim. Keep it far enough away from the water to avoid splashing, but make sure it is on and charged. In case of an emergency, the seconds spent looking for a phone to call 911 can be the difference between life and death. Also, if you own a pool, we strongly recommend becoming certified in first-aid or at least learning how to perform CPR.
Finally, make sure that your pool cannot be accessed accidentally by children or adults. Even pets can be harmed if they fall into a pool accidentally. Make sure there is some kind of barrier to protect from accidental drowning.
Laws About Pool Fencing
Pool fencing isn’t just a good idea. In many places around the country, pool fencing is required by law. Here in Georgia, state law requires fencing around any swimming pool. In fact, the law goes into some detail about how your safety fence should be built.
By law, the safety fence most surround your pool on all sides. The wall of your house can qualify as one side of the fence, but only if the door to the outside is fitted with an alarm that lets you know every time someone exits toward the pool.
A pool fence must be at least four feet tall, and any gaps between slats or bars may not exceed four inches. That’s to prevent small children from squeezing through. A chain link safety fence must have openings no larger than 1 ¾ inches in diameter to prevent climbing. The lowest part of the fence must be no more than four inches off the ground.
The gate on a pool fence is required to open outwards, away from the pool, so that it cannot be pushed open from the outside. A gate must be designed to close on its own and be self-latching. On a fence that is taller than four feet, the latch must be higher than four feet. If the fence is four feet tall—the legal minimum height—the latch can be no more than six inches from the top. No openings in the fence are permitted within eighteen inches of the latch.
Added Benefits of a Pool Safety Fence
The primary benefit of a pool fence is that it prevents anyone from accidentally wandering into your pool and drowning. While we generally think of children as the victims of accidental drowning, it can happen to anyone. Someone who is intoxicated or sleepwalking may not be aware of the pool, and by the time they fall in it is too late. Even a fully-conscious adult can step backward without looking and accidentally fall into a pool. If they hit their head, lose consciousness, or are otherwise injured, they may not be able to swim to safety. Pets are also in danger. Most dogs know how to swim instinctively, but not all. Other pets fare even less well.
Besides preventing accidental falls, a safety fence can keep other unwanted visitors out of your pool. If your backyard is not completely fenced in—and sometimes even if it is—a pool can seem inviting to an unscrupulous neighbor or even a stranger. The last thing you want is to come home form a vacation to find signs that someone has been in your pool. Besides unwanted humans, we have seen cases of other uninvited guests. Wild animals may be attracted to your pool as a place to find water. We’ve heard of cases of deer, raccoons, and other wildlife stuck in a pool. In Florida, quite a few homeowners have had to call the authorities to remove an alligator from their pool.
A pool fence can also provide some privacy. A safety fence doesn’t have to be unstylish. A well-designed fence that fits in with your overall home design can add beauty to your backyard and help visually distinguish the site of your pool. If you aren’t comfortable with the neighbors watching you swim, a solid pool fence can keep out prying eyes.
Alternatives to a Pool Safety Fence
In addition to a safety fence, there are other ways to keep people out of your pool. The most common pool safety accessory is a safety cover. This tight-fitting cover is often used to cover a pool over the winter. It is pulled drum-tight and can support thousands of pounds. However, it has some disadvantages. The main drawback is that it only works when you use it. Putting on a safety cover can take some time and energy, and making sure you put it on after every swim can be a nuisance. It’s easy to forget to put it on or to decide that you don’t need to do it right away. Of course, those are just excuses and could lead to real harm.
A good solution for the nuisance of putting the cover on is to get an automatic pool safety cover. An automatic cover can be extended over the pool with the flip of a switch. But that kind of cover can be expensive to purchase and install. And you will also need to install a pump to remove rainwater from the solid cover.
Pool Safety Nets
Another option that has become more popular recently is a pool safety net. A safety net works like a safety cover but is not solid. It is made of netting with holes no more than 3 or 4 inches wide. It has some advantages over a safety net. First, it can be much cheaper. Second, it may be easier to install. Third, it does not collect water so you won’t need an extra pump. But it still needs to be taken off and put back on every time you swim, leaving room for careless mistakes that can turn deadly.
The most significant shortcoming of both safety covers and safety nets is that they do not satisfy state requirements for a safety fence. However, they can make a great second layer of safety in case someone gets through the safety fence.
Pool Safety with The Pool Butler
If you have questions about the safety of your pool, contact The Pool Butler. We have many years of experience working with all kinds of pools, and we’re happy to share our knowledge. And don’t forget, a clean, healthy pool is also part of pool safety. Check out our pool cleaning and pool repair services to find out how we can keep your pool at its best.