by Myles McMorrow, April 26, 2009
Pools and spas provide many hours of fun and relaxation, and usually nothing more than a skinned knee. Complacency can allow us to relax our once rigid pool safety standards. The gate latch may no longer line up. Externals doors may no longer be locked and alarmed. Perhaps the kids are good swimmers now, and they don't need so much supervision?!?
May is Pool Safety Month. If you hang around POOLCENTER.com long enough, you know that we are very vocal on pool safety Issues. Here are some facts and tips for making your pool a safer place to be. Let's Get Safe!
The most tragic safety associated issue with pools is drowning. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), from 2003-2005, 283 children under the age of 5 drowned in swimming pools and drowning is the most common form of unintentional death in children ages 1-4 years old.
There are many things you can do to help prevent this. Even if you have no children in the house or grandchildren visiting , this does not mean one cannot end up in your pool, children are explorers by nature. Neighborhood kids know you have a pool, which by the way, the law terms an "attractive nuisance". Kids are attracted to pools, and will wander through an open gate, like 3 yr old drowning victim Vimbai Machakaire did. For her story, read our blog post "How safe is your Neighbor's Pool?"
There is something that we in the pool industry refer to as “layers of protection” This is setting up multiple forms of protection to prevent accidents from happening. Number one on that list is supervision, know where the kids are at all times. If a child is missing check the pool first because seconds count when it comes to drowning. The next level would be a barrier such as a pool fence or wall surrounding the pool to stop people from easily entering the pool area (this is a law in many states). The last layer is a pool alarm. They sound an alarm at the pool and in the house if something over 8 pounds enters the pool water. None of these layers are 100% reliable so the more layers you have the safer your pool will be.
One of the best things you can do in the event of an accident is to have prepared for it in advanced. From 2004-06 there were over 2800 emergency room visits with pool related submersion injuries. Of that, 33% where children under the age of 18 mos and more than half of these victims were boys.
Anyone that owns a pool or swims should know the life saving method of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) this is a procedure you can do in the event someone stops breathing or their heart stops. The Red Cross offers classes nationwide and only takes a few hours to complete and most classes also teach basic first aid.
A good thing to have by the pool if an accident occurs is a phone for calling emergency professionals. One thing every pool should have is good first aid kit as well as rescue equipment for getting some one in trouble out of the water without putting yourself in danger. Most drowning victims will try to grab on to the rescuer putting both in jeopardy of drowning.
Swim lessons are the best way to prevent drowning. No one is too young or too old for proper swim training. Most departments of parks and recreation or YMCAs offer swim classes. A recent study says children as young as 6 months (yes 6mo. not a typo) can be taught to save themselves. One interesting bit of pool news these days is ISR or Infant Swimming Resource (this is amazing to watch and I highly recommend it). Classes are offered around the country and it has been around for many years and is recognized leader in the area of teaching infants to swim.
Electrocution is another safety issue around pools. You should never use any electrical appliance within 10 feet of a swimming pool. Swimming pools do use electricity to filter, heat, and light. Every swimming pool should have 2 GFI circuit breakers on every electrical device used on the pool system. This is to have one as a back up in the case the first one fails. All swimming pools should also be bonded or grounded, in accordance with the National electrical code. If you are not sure if your pool complies, you can get a state or local electrical code inspector to come and, well, inspect.
Lightning is a pesky problem with swimming pools. In the USA, in any given year there are over 22 million cloud to ground lightning strikes. Lightning is attracted to water and 8.1% of these strikes do hit bodies of water. One thing you can get on the market now are small hand held devices that can detect lightning from miles away and will alert you. One thing to remember is the H.A.N.D.Y rule when it comes to pools and lightning. Do not swim for 45 minutes after a storm has passed, you do not need clouds overhead to have lightning strike a swimming pool.
All these are spread by swallowing, breathing, or having contact with contaminated water from pools and spas or bodies of water. If you think someone has been exposed contact and emergency professional as soon as possible. There are test kits you can buy to test the water for them, but one kit does not do them all. The CDC or Center for Disease Control has a list of what you can do to prevent and limit exposure to them.
Last is your pool and surrounding area. Make sure everything around your pool is in good working condition. This would include you pool deck for broken concrete or splintered wood. These should be repaired ASAP. This will help with trip and fall types of injuries. Rough pool plaster and chipped pool paint can cause cuts and scraped too. Broken and missing tile can be as sharp and razor blades.
Make sure all hand rails, slides, diving boards, and pool side equipment are all tightened regularly and are not broken or loose. Consider removing diving boards that may be installed on a pool with a steep slope, or depth less than 8 ft. Some diving boards installed during the 70's and 80's would not pass current standards, and should be removed.
Make sure you look over your pool on regular basis to ensure your pool is as safe as it can be. See our blog post "Swimming Pool Safety Checklist". You never know when an accident may happen, better to prepared for it in the event it might happen.
Let's all spread the word about water and pool safety and have a safe summer!