It wouldn’t be summertime without a cool dip in the pool. Yet parents need to take extra precautions when letting their children play in the pool and around the pool area, even in public and community pools, at water parks, and natural bodies of water. It’s a lesson that too often goes unheard: the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that 90 children below the age of 15 drowned between Memorial Day and mid-July 2012. Of those fatalities, 72 were younger than five years old.
Know the Basics, and Prepare Your Kids
Parental or adult supervision is crucial when allowing children to use pools – even aboveground and relatively shallow pools. Parents or responsible teens should always be present when children use the pool, and situate themselves where they can see all parts of the pool area.
Children four years old and above should complete a licensed pool safety course. Parents and teens should take first aid and CPR courses from the Red Cross or other licensed authorities.
Keep a certified floatation device around the pool at all times; to be absolutely safe, keep several arranged at different points around the pool perimeter.
Making The Pool Area Safe
The CPSC recommends that pools and spas be surrounded by a locked fence at least four-feet high, with vertical slats no more than four inches apart; chain link fences should have link openings no larger than 1.75”. The bottom of the fence shouldn’t rise more than four inches above the ground beneath.
Keep house doors and windows that lead to the pool area locked at all times. Never partially remove a pool cover, and do not allow children to walk or play atop the pool cover.
Keep ladders and gates around the pool locked. Gates should open out from the pool, with a latch that’s above the reach of small arms. Make sure the gate or fence has no openings more than ½” wide within reach of the latch, so children can’t reach through to unlock it.
To prevent life-risking entrapments, keep your children away from drainpipes, drainage gates and other openings that can snare hands, feet, and hair. Children shouldn’t wear loose clothing or jewelry around the pool, and long hair should be contained within a swim cap.
Make sure your pool’s drainage covers are VGB-complaint: that is, that they meet the standards set forth by the 2007 Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. Consult your pool equipment supplier if you’re not sure.
How to Respond to an Emergency
When an emergency happens, it’s vital that parents contact 911 emergency response immediately. Keep a charged telephone near the patio or pool area at all times. Trained adults or teens can administer CPR and first aid until emergency assistance arrives.
All parents and teens within the household should be familiar with how to turn the pool machinery on and off. In cases of entrapment or snare, rather than pull the child away from the suction, insert a finger or hand between the suction and the child to break the seal. Keep a pair of scissors near the pool area (locked up) to cut hair free of grates or vents.
Spa Safety and Families
Spas and hot tubs are not typically designed for use by children. Nevertheless, parents need to make sure that, like the pool, all covers and drains are in good working order and remain VGB-compliant.
Remember that children are more susceptible to overheating than adults; their time inside the spa – always under strict adult supervision – should be curtailed to healthy limits. Consult the family pediatrician before allowing children into the spa or hot tub.
Keep the spa or hot tub turned off when not in use, and make sure the cover is securely fastened. Do not allow children to climb or play atop the spa cover.
Bring Better Pool Safety Everywhere
Parents can also become involved in making sure their neighbor’s pools are safe, as well as municipal and semi-private pools in their area. Visit the CPSC’s family pool safety Web page for complete information.