Once you become a parent, your kid’s safety is your number one priority. You break a sweat installing the car seat, you lose sleep to make sure they’re still in a safe sleeping position, you spend hours painstakingly babyproofing your house—all in the name of keeping your kid safe. (High five, you good parent, you!)
When it comes to safety, knowledge is power. While many safety practices are good common sense (like plugging up all the electrical outlets in your house), there are others that are less intuitive (like hiding all visible electric cords). The more you know, the more you can do to protect your entire family from hidden dangers—even the ones at home.
The same is true for swimming pools. You probably know the basics of pool safety for children, but it’s important to have a thorough knowledge of how to keep kids safe around pools.
After all, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC):
- For children ages 1-4, drowning is the most common cause of unintentional injury death
- For children ages 5-9, drowning is the second most common cause of unintentional injury death
- More than 60% of fatal drownings for children ages 0-4 are in swimming pools
Residential pools (and spas) are a very real safety hazard for children. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent disaster from striking in your own backyard.
Install a fence.
Drownings don’t just happen on swim days. It’s not uncommon for a child to fall into a pool after simply wandering into the backyard. A physical barrier is always going to be a good bet for keeping kids safe around pools, but it’s important to make sure the fence you use meets certain requirements.
For starters, remember the 4-4-4 rule:
- The pool should be enclosed on all 4 sides. Your home should not serve as the “fourth wall” for your fence.
- The pool fence should be at least 4 feet high. This is considered a minimum; the higher, the better.
- There should be no openings bigger than 4 inches wide anywhere in the fence. That means that any vertical slats should be less than 4 inches apart, and there should not be a gap larger than 4 inches at the bottom of the fence.
Additionally, your fence should have a self-closing, self-latching gate, with a latch or lock that a child cannot reach.
Finally, make sure the fence does not have any holds or protrusions that could allow a child to climb it. Keep any furniture or toys away from the fence so children can’t climb over it.
We recommend having your fence professionally installed. Most cities have a selection of local fencing companies that can provide this service, or you can have it done by a home improvement store like Home Depot or Lowe’s.
Use an alarm.
When many of us picture someone drowning, we think of someone flailing around and calling for help. The truth, however, is that drowning is silent. A drowning child is not going to be able to yell for help or even splash around. That’s what makes alarms so useful.
There are several different ways to use an alarm to maximize pool safety. One is an alarm that sounds every time the pool gate opens. Similarly, alarms can be placed on doors leading to the backyard. Another option is a motion sensor that sounds an alarm when it detects movement in the water. Finally, there are devices that a child can wear on their wrist that will sound an alarm when wet.
An alarm is not a suitable substitute for a fence, but using an alarm can provide an additional layer of safety for kids around water.
Watch kids around water.
We don’t mean glancing up from your phone every few minutes to make sure everything’s okay. We mean putting the phone down, eliminating any and all other distractions, and keeping your eyes on the children in and around the pool. There should always be at least one adult providing this high level of supervision when kids are playing in or around water.
Keep toys out of water when not in use.
Kids are creative, and can end up in places we never thought they could reach. If they see a toy or other fun object floating around in the pool, they may be more motivated to try to reach it. For that reason, it’s smart to clear all toys out of the pool and stored in a safe place when not in use.
Enroll in swimming lessons.
Teaching your child to swim can help them know how to respond if they happen to fall into the water unexpectedly. Swim classes are available for even young children and are a great way to promote pool safety. Remember, however, that even experienced swimmers can drown, so supervision is still important, even if your children have had swimming lessons.
Wear life jackets.
Put your child in a Coast Guard approved life jacket when they’re around a pool. Again, this is not a substitute for diligent supervision.
We hope you never have to use CPR on your child. We also hope that, should the need ever arise, you know how to perform CPR properly. CPR certification is vital in an emergency situation, and knowing how to perform CPR on infants and children is different than it is for adults. Parents, guardians, babysitters, and anyone else who cares for a child should know how to perform CPR. An online course can help you learn everything you need to know from the comfort of your home, on your own schedule. Take a course today and brush up on your knowledge and skills regularly.
A pool should be a place to have fun and make good memories with your family. As long as you’re smart and practice these pool safety rules, you and your kids will be able to enjoy your pool the way it was meant to be enjoyed.