The month of May is known as pool safety month or more accurately, as National Water Safety Month. The reason it starts in May is because it is the start of the pool season which is typically Memorial Day.
Years Ago, water safety was not stressed as much as it is today. When I grew up, my parents had us learn to swim at the local YMCA and anytime I wanted to go swimming I needed to bring a friend to look out for each other (the Buddy System). That was pretty much it in regards to pool safety.
Today there are many organizations that promote pool safety to create increased awareness of drowning and entrapment risks. Schools have become very involved over the years, and other organizations such as the YMCA, Red cross, CPSC, SafeKids, NDPA and the APSP help raise awareness of and create great water safety content for pool owners.
In the paragraphs to follow I'll discuss some ways that you can make your pool safer. I know as parents, grandparents and good neighbors, we all want to make our pool as safe as possible. If you take away only one new pool safety practice, the next 5 minutes of your life could save a young person's life.
SWIMMING POOL BARRIERS
Most towns by code require some sort of barrier around the pool area such as a fence. Some towns will allow you to use an automatic pool cover in lieu of a fence, but a fence is still recommended. A 4-sided fence is best. If your pool is surrounded by a 3-sided fence, think about installing additional internal fence or walls around two sides of the pool. Internal fences needn't be 6 ft tall, but 3-4', with a swinging and locking gate. With aluminum fence sections, you'll hardly notice it's there, but having a 4-sided fence gives a big boost in safety.
Safety pool covers are secured to the deck with anchors and straps. These covers come in either mesh or solid and can hold over 4,000 lbs., and are the safest way to close up a pool for winter. For smaller pools, a mesh safety cover can be used all year long (remove completely before swimming). I know of many pool owners who have a safety cover on the pool for 6-8 months during the off-season, and during spring opening, they remove the mesh cover and install the mesh fence, for a year-round pool barrier.
SWIMMING POOL ALARMS
Pool alarms are a great way to add safety around the pool when the pool is not in use. Many states now require pool alarms to be installed when a new pool is built and is common practice for many pool owners to install them on their own. These alarms sit on the edge of the pool, with controls resting on the deck and the sensor extending below the water. Sub-surface detection alarms can sense an object weighing over 18lbs falling into the pool.
Another great way to restrict entry is with a Gate Alarm and/or a door alarm. In this case, if the door or gate is opened the alarm will sound. If you have a 3-sided fence, with the fourth side being the house, installing a Door Alarm on the back door that leads to the pool is easy to do, and a powerful safety measure. Most towns require ASME rated pool alarms. If you need help finding the requirements in your town for pool alarms, or the correct alarm to meet the code, give us a call, we can help.
SWIMMING POOL SAFETY TRAINING
No matter how long you have owned your pool its important to have a safety plan in effect that you can teach all children and adults what to do to prevent accidents or drowning. Have a safety meeting every spring. No matter what the age, everyone could use a pre-season refresher on ways to keep the pool safer.
- No running, dunking, pushing
- No shallow diving
- Keep the gates, garage, doors closed at all times
- No swimming alone, 2+ people only in the pool
- Remove all pool toys from the pool
I usually add some other things like, "No One touch my pool heater!", and "Please remove the pool cleaner GENTLY!" - stuff like that. My wife has some rules too, about wet swimsuits and towels. We also have diving board rules that we cover. Most importantly, our meeting serves to remind everyone that a pool is great, but that it can also be dangerous, even for those who know how to swim, so "...everyone needs to watch the pool, the doors and each other!".
Many organizations like those listed above not only teach pool safety but promote water safety through events, web content, and printed materials. They even have interactive lessons for kids on their websites, and some suggested teaching tools to increase pool safety awareness for kids and everyone in the house.
Whoever is going to use the pool - make sure you know who can swim and who cannot. As I mentioned before I learned how to swim at the YMCA but there is nothing wrong with teaching swimming lessons in your own pool not only for your kids but also for the neighborhood kids and friends that come over to use the pool. You can find swim lesson plans online, or pick up a book at the library. Teaching swimming is not hard, just follow a swim plan, and mark milestones.
Every year, kids should have swim lessons, either in your own pool, or at a local community pool, or YMCA. Kids are ready for swim lessons at an early age, but may not be a very strong swimmer until they are school age. Every year, my kids and I would have "swim clinics" in the pool, when they were younger, until they became teenagers who laughed at the idea.
Other safety gear to have at the pool is a first aid kit, a phone to call 911, life ring and safety scissors to cut hair in case of entrapment. Make sure the pool area is picked up before and after use. This will prevent a trip hazard, and brightly colored pool toys and floats can attract children to the pool. Lastly, I would have a shepherds hook to be used to pull someone out of an emergency situation.
As the owner of a pool for over 20 years and being in the pool business for over 30years, one thing I can say, is never leave the pool unattended. Not only should there be adult supervision but whoever is in charge must know how to swim and know the plan in case of an emergency. I see a lot of times when people start talking to their friends or are on the phone and lose track of the kids in the pool. In my many years in the business I have seen accidents that could have been avoided had the person in charge not become distracted. Don’t be that person. A child can drown in the time it takes to answer the phone!
There are so many things we can do to provide water safety. We have covered a few things that can be done to increase your own pool safety. To do nothing at all is a tragedy but to get involved and be proactive could make the difference between life and death. If you try some of these things above, there is a great chance that you will have a happy and accident free pool season.
SPP Pool Expert