By Eric Lupton, Safety Advocate and Life Saver Pool Fence President
Now that the storms have passed, many Florida families face the challenge of remodeling their homes or moving. No matter your decision, I urge parents to think carefully about the most dangerous part of the home – the swimming pool.
This year, at least two children drowned days after their family moved into a new home. The parents had not yet installed a fence and other safety precautions, and the toddlers found their way outside without their parents knowing. That’s why I urge parents to install layers of protection to prevent accidental drownings and read these important Pool Safety Guide tips:
1. Install High Door/Window Locks
Before you move in to a home with a swimming pool, install locks on doors and windows that are high and out of the reach of young children. Put them on every door and window that leads to the pool area. Some drownings happen because a parent didn’t know their toddler had figured out the door knob or lock and the simply walked out on their own. Don’t forget sliding glass doors that small children can slide open.
2. Add Door and Window Alarms
Home buyers who have never owned a pool may not realize children are drawn to water, even when it is cold outside. Families can self-install simple contact alarms for doors and windows that lead to the pool, or contract with a security company. In every case, it’s important to keep the alarms activated. If an older child disables the alarm, a younger sibling could easily slip outside without anyone knowing.
Also consider installing an alarm on any gates that lead to the pool. Adults can use a bypass switch that will keep kids out when there is no one around to supervise.
3. Evaluate Doggy Doors
If you have toddlers in the home, any pet doors that grant access a pool or spa should also be permanently sealed off. Toddlers are known to mimic their pets and may follow them right out the doggy door and into the pool area. That puts both the child and the pet at risk of falling in the water. Instead, move the doggy door to an area that is secure with no access to the pool or spa.
4. Install a Pool Safety Fence
Perhaps one of the most reassuring steps is installing a pool fence. Fences should be at least 4′ tall and have a self-closing, self-latching gate. Mesh pool safety fences, like Life Saver Pool Fence, have proven to be an effective layer of protection with a transparent and aesthetically pleasing look that is easy to remove and reinstall by the homeowner. Make sure the fence surrounds the pool, so there are no doors or windows leading directly from the home into the pool area.
5. Purchase a Pool Alarm
There are several types of alarms that will provide another layer of protection against drowning. Surface pool alarms will trigger an alarm inside the home when the water’s surface is broken. However, a small child could quietly walk down the pool steps and slip under water without making a big splash or setting off the alarm, so they cannot be used alone.
Subsurface pool alarms detect disturbances beneath the surface. They cost more but are less prone to false triggers than floating alarms and more reliable than surface alarms.
6. Consider Child Immersion Alarms
When you first move into a home, consider fitting your child with a wearable immersion alarm, like the Safety Turtle, which triggers an alarm inside the house if the sensor gets wet. This is especially important in a new home when you are unfamiliar with the area. It resembles a watch and can protect against all water hazards including a neighbor’s pool, ponds, and rivers.
7. Check Drain Covers
Avoid tragedy by drain entrapment and make sure there are no broken or damaged drain covers in your pool or spa. The suction from a drain can pull in jewelry, hair, and bathing suits, which may cause drowning if the wearer of these items cannot break free. Ensure your pool or spa drain covers are compliant with the Pool and Spa Safety Act and keep your family safe from harm.
Once all those steps are taken, your family can move into your new home with peace of mind. However, pool safety must become part of your daily life to keep children safe.
8. Assign Water Watchers
When children are in the pool, assign one person as a designated Water Watcher and change shifts every 15 minutes. Active supervision means sitting close to the pool with your full attention on the child/children – no phones or reading materials. Do a regular headcount and step in when there is too much horsing around. If you have to walk away for any reason, another adult must be designated as the Water Watcher.
Do not leave a toddler or young child in the pool area without adult supervision. Older children are not always as sensitive to the dangers of drowning, and my not recognize the warning signs.
9. Clear Out the Pool Area
Get in the habit of always removing floats from the pool when finished, especially toys that could attract a child to the water. Children who are in pursuit of a toy won’t think twice about breaking the rules to get it.
Also make sure to move any tables or chairs away from the pool fence so they cannot be used to climb over. Make a rule from day one that the pool area is for swimming only, so children don’t get used to being near the water when parents are not around.
10. Enroll in Swim Lessons
As soon as a parent and pediatricians feel comfortable, all children should receive swimming lessons. Some organizations even offer training for infants to roll over and float, and to swim to the edge of the pool in case they fall in.
No matter how much instruction your child has, it’s important to give them a refresher if they have not been swimming in a while, like the winter months. That’s true even in warm weather states, like Florida, Arizona, and California where drowning is the number one cause of death for children under five.
11. Learn CPR
Every parent, babysitter, and teenager should be trained in CPR. Check out local community centers for classes as soon as you move to your new home. This training is essential to get oxygen to the brain and can make the difference between life, permanent disability, and death.
You cannot drown-proof a child, but every layer of protection that you add significantly reduces the chance of a child drowning incident– the more, the better. Of those steps, pool safety fencing is arguably the most effective at preventing fatal drowning incidents because it physically prevents access to the pool, making your pool safer for your children and your neighbors.
About the author: Eric Lupton is a tireless advocate for pool safety and President of Life Saver Pool Fence which is based in Delray Beach, Florida and recognized by the CPSC as a Safety Leader. Parents can download a free safety guide on their website: www.poolfence.com