Drowning is the second-leading cause of accidental death for children under five in the U.S., and each year thousands of children are treated in hospitals for drowning and near-drowning.
“It can happen anywhere, in ordinary neighborhoods and it can happen to caring, vigilant parents,” says Marcia Kerr, an investigator for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission who lost her own son in a pool drowning accident. “Homeowners should take steps immediately to ensure the safety of children who live in or visit their homes. Layers of protection are essential.”
Here are some tips from the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA) to help you identify pool dangers and add proper protections:
Install Isolation Fencing: Isolation fencing should separate your pool from your home, either totally surrounding the pool or enclosing all doors leading from the home. This helps protect children who get out the door from moving beyond the patio. For above-ground pools, a smaller fence and gate surrounding the steps or ladder can be effective in preventing toddler access. And parents of toddlers should keep “doggy doors” locked or within fenced areas.
“Constant adult supervision is vital, but most parents of toddlers will agree it’s impossible to supervise children every second of every day,” says the NDPA’s Executive Director, Kristin Goffman. “Isolation fencing can help prevent unauthorized access to a pool during those brief moments when caregivers realize their child is missing.”
Use Alarms: If the house forms one side of the barrier to the pool, doors leading to the pool area should be protected with alarms that sound when the door is unexpectedly opened. These are reasonably priced, but you must be committed to their use for alarms to provide effective protection.
Be Prepared - Take Classes: Make sure kids take swimming lessons and their guardians by the pool know how to swim. Adults also should know CPR and rescue breathing in case of emergency. And when children are in the pool, designate a “water watcher” to maintain eye-to-eye contact at all times.
Be Safer: A telephone should be kept poolside so adults never have to leave the area to answer it while children are swimming. And never leave toys in the pool area, including floating devices such as chlorine dispensers that look like toys.
According to research conducted in the United States and Australia, a fence is the only truly-effective barrier, but other protections help. The NDPA recently published its first paper on the subject. With recommendations ranging from fencing to safety devices to water safety, the free paper can be found at www.ndpa.org in the “Safety Tips” section.
By relying on layers of protection around the pool, you can give your family years of safer relaxation and enjoyment. But as many precautionary measures as you take, there is no substitute for proper supervision and awareness of your surroundings.