by Rob Cox, March 19, 2009
We spend a lot of time talking about pool safety around here at POOLCENTER.com ~ and this article deals with safety measures for small and large above ground pools. Pools that may be only 24" deep - could this be dangerous? More and more localities and states think so. New legislation, most recently passed in New York state, requires that any body of water with a depth of 24" or more to have a pool alarm.
At issue are the inexpensive above ground pools such as the Intex Easy Set pools, which have an inflatable top ring. If you have $99 and 100 sq. ft. behind your townhouse, you can be a pool owner! In many cases, these pools are placed in an area that is not especially secure or monitored. Using Easy Set pool covers can help keep the pool clean, reduce chemical demand, and provide a small element of safety.
The Soft Sided pool means a limited number of pool alarms will adapt to the soft top edge. One that does work with easy set style pools, is the Pool Patrol pool alarm. This alarm floats on the surface and has kind of a "Tilt" mechanism, like a Pinball machine. The Pool Patrol is available with or without the in-house remote shown.
Another type of alarm that may meet local requirements is the PoolEye PE-21 or PE-22 pool alarms. This would require that you keep a pool ladder in the pool at all times. These alarms mount to the edge of a rigid pool -or- to a pool ladder. These models are both designed for in ground pools, but if you are looking for the sometimes more reliable sub-surface detection, these may be your best bet.
Pooleye alarms are made by Smartpool company, the manufacturer that brought us the Perimeter Laser Alarm. PE-41 shoots and reflects an invisible beam between 4 posts. Very cool, 007 James Bond stuff - but possibly a bit of overkill to protect your above ground pool? Possibly Not! We have to think in terms of Layers of Protection.
A pool fence is usually the outermost of the Layers of Protection around a pool. Door and Gate Alarms provide a second Layer of Protection. Natural barriers around the pool, such as hedges, short decks, or retaining walls, can limit access. At the pool itself, a pool alarm in the water, or a safety pool cover, can provide a final Layer of Protection, at the pool itself. And don't forget education - of children and adults. It also is good practice to remove any visual barriers from the house, to the pool. Good design will have the pool area in full view by many areas of the house.
Say that you have a permanent aboveground pool, the rigid walled pools, with a hard top rail - More alarm options are available for these pools. If your pool has a complete surround pool deck of wood or aluminum, you can install a custom mesh or solid safety cover. Most effective, once again, would be a complete surround fence, made especially for permanent above ground pools. These pool fence sections are easily bolted to the uprights of your pool, and joined to each other. Nothing beats a good fence for pool safety.
And, speaking of access - consider your aboveground pool ladder for a moment. Safe versions of the A-frame type ladder, flip up and lock in an upright position, when not in use. A new style spins the steps toward the pool, making it impossible to climb the ladder, in this locked, backwards facing position. Pool entrance systems, with steps in and out of the pool usually have gates that can be locked. Double check your gate to ensure the gate is self-closing and self-latching - and locked.
If you are unsure of the local requirements - bring your pool up to code by contacting your local building codes or building permit offices, or check the city web documents. Above ground pools can be just as much an "attractive nuisance" as an in ground pool. Be sure to give your pool a safety check this spring and ensure that your above ground pool does not become a summer tragedy and another statistic.