Are Swimming Pools Safe?

10 guidelines to consider


JUNE 15, 2021

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During summer, there’s nothing more refreshing than the cool, crystalline waters of the pool on a sweltering day. Swimming is an activity everyone in the family can enjoy, whether they’re perfecting their backstroke, engaging in a game of Marco Polo, or floating gently along in a flamingo-shaped inflatable raft.

The big question as we head into summer, however, is: Are swimming pools safe? Pool ownership comes with responsibility, but there are many ways to ensure backyard swimming pool safety so you, your family, and your friends can keep their cool all season long.

Take a layered approach to the pool area

Much like a comprehensive home security system with window and door locks, motion sensors, and security cameras, pool safety works best with a multifaceted approach. The more obstacles a young child has to overcome to reach the pool, the less likely it is that they will get there. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends the following:

  • Check your local laws and ordinances. Many states require pool signage and four-sided barriers and security gates around a backyard pool area.

  • Fence it off. The CPSC recommends a 5-foot-high swimming pool safety fence around a pool or spa, but that security fence should be a minimum of 4 feet without any rails or large openings a child can climb over or slip through.

  • Remove steps or ladder. Prevent access to the water in an above-ground pool by removing or locking away the steps. Use this measure in addition to a properly installed fence or gate.

  • Keep any child safety gates locked, and make sure they’re self-closing and equipped with a gate safety latch that automatically locks.

  • Cover the pool when not in use. This will keep the water cleaner and may act as a deterrent for curious children. If possible, invest in a motorized pool cover.

  • Add door sensors. Monitor any doors that open into your backyard or toward the pool with sensors that alert you to a door opening.

  • Consider cameras. Security cameras can add another layer of protection by letting you know when motion is detected in your yard or near your pool.

  • Use door locks and knob covers to prevent your child from easily exiting the home.

Teach pool etiquette

Reduce risks when your kids are playing in and around the pool area by enforcing a few critical rules:

  • No diving allowed in shallow areas.

  • No running around the pool area.

  • No entering the pool area without adult permission and supervision.

  • No swimming in the event of lightning or other bad weather.

  • No roughhousing in and around the pool.

  • No going near a pool drain. Drains in pools and spas have powerful suction that can pull hair or hold a person underwater.

Invest in swimming lessons

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death in children. Fortunately, swim lessons greatly mitigate this risk. Also, never rely on flotation devices. Weak or beginning swimmers can use a Coast Guard-approved life jacket to enhance water safety, but even strong swimmers need constant supervision while in the pool.

Designate a water watcher

Whether you’re alone with your kids in the backyard pool, at a lake with a group of friends, or hosting a pool party at your local country club, an adult always needs to be present and keeping eyes on all the swimmers. This water watcher should put down their phone, eliminate any distractions (such as talking to a friend), and avoid alcohol or drugs. It’s tempting to leave your grade-schooler who swims like a fish in the pool alone, but all ages and swim levels need supervision.

Pick up the pool toys

Make sure all toys are out of the pool area when you head back inside. That way your 5-year-old won’t be tempted to go back and fish out the mermaid doll that’s floated out into the middle of the pool.

Enlist the pros

Have a pool maintenance professional take inventory of your backyard space for any potential concerns. Make sure they check the pool drains, and install an anti-entrapment drain cover if you don’t already have one. Also, keep in mind that a properly maintained pool — whether you hire a pool company or balance the pH and clean it yourself — is key to ensuring your child’s swimming comfort and safety.

Know the signs of drowning

Water distress often doesn’t look like the drowning depicted in movies and on TV. According to the American Red Cross someone actively drowning or in distress may be vertical in the water and unable to move forward while trying to move their arms at the side to keep their head up. Smaller children may simply appear motionless and floating either toward the bottom or the surface of the pool.

Have a plan in place

Seconds count in an emergency. The Red Cross recommends always checking the pool when a child temporarily goes missing, keeping a first aid kit nearby along with CPR instructions, and making sure you have easy access to a phone so you can quickly call for help.

Treat any water in your home as a liability for your kids

Swimming pool child safety goes beyond a traditional pool, however. The worst can happen in a matter of seconds and in as little as an inch of water. Bathtubs, toilets, sinks, hot tubs, spas, dog bowls, birdbaths, buckets, or any receptacle that can collect water can be a danger to babies, toddlers, and young children.

Swimming social distancing considerations

If you don’t have a pool in your yard and you plan on spending time at a waterpark, public pool, or splash pad, follow the latest Centers for Disease Control guidelines for physical distancing and stay home if you or your children are sick. The CDC states that there are no current “scientific reports of the virus that causes COVID-19 spreading to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, water playgrounds, or other treated aquatic venues.”

The good news is that a backyard pool can be a fun and safe activity for all members of the family throughout the summer season. Learn more about how to keep your family safe in and around your home by visiting the Brinks Home™ Smart Center.

Jason Stevens is a senior writer for Brinks Home. He is a "tech guy" who enjoys sharing home security and automation tips with others.

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