Pools include many safety features that were not present in years past, but that doesn’t mean that they’re inherently safe. Children are drawn to water, and in just moments, a backyard pool can become the site of an unthinkable tragedy. If you have a pool, be sure you’re following some crucial pool safety tips to keep any children — yours or those visiting your home — safe.
Drowning: The Silent Killer
First and foremost, it’s important for any pool owner to know what drowning looks like. Movies and television shows often depict drowning as a loud event, with yelling and splashing. But in reality, actual drowning is undramatic. It’s called “the silent killer” because it is literally silent.
50% of kids who drown do so within 25 yards of a parent, and 10% of those drownings occur while the parent is watching and not recognizing the signs. Rather than kicking and yelling, a drowning person will hold their legs still. Their face will typically be at the surface of the water, with their head held back and their mouth open. Their arms will be held out at their sides and their hair will often be covering their eyes. This nonvoluntary, natural response is the body’s way of trying to survive. If you see someone in this posture in the water, you have mere seconds to act before tragedy strikes.
Pool Fences are False Security
A pool fence is a required piece of equipment for pool safety in many cities around the nation. However, your pool fence can give you a false sense of security. Children younger than age two have been recorded climbing pool fences to gain access to the pool beyond.
A Better Defense: Multiple Layers of Protection
Pool barriers, mechanical latches, and alarms, when used in combination, offer greater protection than a pool fence alone. In many cities, homes with pools require at least two of the following pool safety mechanisms:
- Pool fences: Make sure your fence is at least 5 feet tall, with bars no wider apart than 4 inches. Also, be sure that the bottom bar of the fence is no more than 4 inches from the ground, and that the soil cannot be easily dug into or moved.
- Gate latches: Self-closing and automatically latching pool fence gates help further secure your pool fence from unsupervised entry.
- Door alarms: A chime that rings a unique tone when any door that opens and gives access to a yard with a pool can serve as an effective alerting system to a child exiting the safety of the home.
- Sliding door safety mechanisms: Auto-closing sliding glass doors with secondary handles make it difficult for small children to get those doors open.
- Pool nets: A pool net, when professionally installed and put on correctly, creates an effective barrier that keeps kids safer around the pool. However, these devices only work when they’re on the pool, which means your pool is a risk whenever it’s in use.
- Pool surface alarms: These alarms alert you to anything breaking the water’s surface. However, they can and will sound if you have a dog that likes to swim or water fowl that frequent your yard. You also have to be within the proximity of the alarm to hear it.
- Spa covers: Latching and locking spa covers should be closed any time your spa is not in use.
- Fence locks: Your house doors and pool fence aren’t the only barrier risk for unwanted pool access. Be sure you have a lock on any fence that grants entry to your backyard, especially if it leads to an unfenced area with pool or spa access.
Your Best Defense: Start Early with Survival Swim Skills
Barriers are meant to slow — not stop — entry to a pool or spa. The best peace of mind you can give yourself is to teach your children how to swim from an early age. Starting from infancy, you can teach your child how to survive a fall into a backyard pool or spa when they manage to get through your alarmed, double-latched doors, over the pool fence, and into the water.
The Dangers of Pool Toys
Baby boats, water wings, pool noodles, and other floaties are toys, not life saving devices. While they are great fun for kids and adults who can swim, they create a false sense of security when used by children who lack survival skills in the water. If you decide to let your non-swimming children use one of these devices, only do so under close supervision. And always stay within arms reach of your child while they’re in the water.
A Better Defense: A Coast Guard Approved Life Vest
Properly fitted, Coast Guard approved life vests should always be worn by all boat passengers while on any open body of water, such as a lake or the ocean. They can also be used by non-swimmers around pools and spas. However, these devices are made for life-saving purposes, and can lead to a false sense of security by non-swimmers and those supervising them. They do not replace swimming instruction.
Your Best Defense: Teach Your Child to Swim
A child who can not just survive a fall into the water, but who enjoys recreational swimming, will be much safer around the water. Once they are proficient with survival swimming, floaties become the toys that they’re meant to be, and your children can play to their heart’s content. That said, children should always be supervised around the water, no matter how proficient of a swimmer they are, and no one should ever swim alone.
Goggles are Made for Competitive Swimming, Not Learning
Children often want goggles to combat the fear of opening their eyes underwater. However, teaching a child to swim with goggles can set them up for failure. If they experience an unexpected fall into a pool, spa, or lake, or even if they slip under the bath water, chances are, they won’t be wearing goggles. Their resulting panic could lead to tragedy.
Your Only Defense: Teach Proper Swimming Techniques
Kids need to be comfortable opening their eyes underwater from the very beginning of their swimming education. Seeing underwater helps them orient themselves so they can find the edge of the pool, the back of a boat, or the shoreline. Once a child is able to confidently swim with their eyes open, then they can use goggles for fun or for competitive swimming. Until then, keep encouraging your child to keep their eyes open in the water.
Discover Survival Swim for Your Infant or Toddler
Did you know that your infant can learn to swim? Survival Swim gives you a method to teach children as young as six months old how to swim. Using the swim-float-swim method, your child will learn vital survival skills in the water that can help keep them safe until they are rescued, and once they are walking, they’ll even learn self-rescue techniques to pull themselves to safety. Survival Swim gives children a foundation for confidence and water safety awareness that can not only prevent drowning, but can lead to a life-long enjoyment of recreational and competitive swimming.