We’re going to start this post with some sobering statistics:
- Each year nearly 300 children in North America drown after falling into backyard pools.
- In Canada 15 percent of drowning deaths involving children occur in backyard pools.
- Perhaps astonishingly, most children who drown in pools do so with an adult nearby who is simply unaware of what is occurring.
- In nearly 3/4 of such drowning incidents involving children the pool had no fence, or a makeshift fence that did not adhere to established safety principles.
Veteran landscaping professionals know that swimming pools and accidents do not have to go together. Indeed, in homes with robust child protective measures in place child drowning deaths are rare. So just what are those robust child protective measures and how do you kidproof your inground pool?
If you have kids and an inground pool the following safety measures are non-negotiable:
- The pool must have a fence around it – This should not be considered a suggestion but an ironclad, airtight must. As we saw in our introductory statistics nearly 3/4 of child drowning incidents involving pools occurred in a pool that had no or inadequate fencing. Therefore, the pool design must leave ample room for a fence. Parachute Canada recommends the following guidelines for constructing a fence around the pool:
- The fence must enclose the entire pool on all four sides.
- The fence must be at least 4 feet (1.2 meters) tall. 5 or 6 feet is even better.
- The fence must have a self-closing (spring loaded) gate that is also self-latching.
- The fence must be designed in a way that foils children that attempt to scale it.
- The fence should be constructed from iron, steel, tempered glass or a combination.
- The gate to the fence must be locked by the last adult to leave the area. No buts.
Just for the record, there is no reason the fence has to clash with the rest of your backyard landscaping.
- The pool must have a cover – And that cover must be in use any time the pool is not in use. A flexible polyethylene, polypropylene, or vinyl cover is better than no cover, but ideally you should have a retractable rigid cover. Some can be retracted manually, others are motorized. But whether the cover is hand or machine operated it should provide total coverage. A rigid cover should lock and the opening mechanism should be inaccessible to anyone but a responsible adult.
- Install a pool alarm – Pool alarm systems can be had at most pool supply stores and don’t cost any more than a high-end pair of running shoes. So there’s no excuse for taking a pass on this one. Some are designed to detect motion in the water while others are designed to detect motion on the surface of the water.
- Install a fence alarm – It’s also a good idea to have coverage on the fence. Pool fence alarms operate along the top of the fence. They commonly use infrared beams to pick up movement along the top of the fence and sound the alarm if that beam is interrupted (in this case by a child trying to climb over the fence).
Remember: the most important aspect of having a fence and/or swimming pool alarm is answering the call if the alarm sounds. Never assume a false alarm.
Now let’s look at some of the safety measures you should take in order to insure the unthinkable doesn’t happen and to prepare in the event that it does.
- No child shall access the area inside the pool fence unless accompanied by an adult.
- That adult shall not be wearing headphones or listening to loud music while the child is in or near the pool.
- There must be life preservers, rope and a pole in close proximity to the pool at all times.
- Pool safety rules must be posted on the fence around the pool and your kids tested on them.
- There must be a marker in the water that clearly delineates the shallow end from the deep end.
- Teach your children how to swim as young as possible or enrol them in swimming classes.
- Have lights installed inside the pool as part of the pool design. These will look great and also come in handy in an emergency if someone falls into the pool at night.
As we mentioned at the outset in most cases of children drowning in swimming pools there is an adult nearby who is unaware of what is transpiring. But as awful as that is what’s worse is that in many cases the nearby adult is aware the child is in trouble but is still unable to help them because:
- The adult does not know how to swim, or
- The adult doesn’t know what to do once the child is pulled from the water, or
- The adult does not know how to perform CPR.
In order to stave off catastrophe remember that:
- First, adult supervision in the case of pool safety means an adult that knows how to swim. An adult that does not know how to swim is of little use in the event of an emergency. That might sound a bit cold hearted but we are talking children’s lives here.
- Second, every adult who is acting in a supervisory capacity at the swimming pool must know exactly what to do in the event of an emergency. Response protocols should also be posted near the pool just in case anyone forgets.
- Third, every adult in the house along with all the older children should learn CPR before anyone dips their big toe into the pool for the first time. This is not something that can or should be put off until you have the time. The time is now. Before the landscaping company arrives to start building the pool.
Pool safety is no joke. Nor is it something that’s negotiable or only for killjoys. Before the pool contractor ever puts backhoe to ground things should be set in motion so that on the day the pool is ready, all of your safety measures are ready as well.