Rob Cox July 31, 2015
Are above ground pools safer than in ground pools? Let's look at the numbers. Out of 10.4 million residential pools in the U.S., 3.6 million are aboveground pools, or 34.6% of all pools, or roughly a third. Now let's look at the 2015 Drowning Statistics data from the CPSC. Excluding undisclosed pool types and spas/hot tubs, the number of fatalities in above ground pools is 32.7% or roughly a third.
So, they may be slightly safer, at least those that are free standing. But when you wrap it with a pretty deck for convenient access, you immediately lose that advantage.
Today's post is about barriers for above ground pools, and how you can dramatically improve above ground pool safety, with four simple barriers, or Layers of Protection.
POOL FENCE BARRIERS
Many communities have requirements for aboveground pool fences. The bolt-on A/G Fence Kits aren't the most attractive option unless you have at least a partial pool deck, but they do work well to keep kids from climbing over the sides (it also keeps swimmers from sitting or standing on the sides).
For pools with a partial or full pool deck connected to the house, it is imperative to install a safety fence or gate (self-closing, self-latching), that creates a secondary barrier between the pool and the house.
For pools without a complete deck, a complete surround top rail fence is the usual option, unless you have the pool in the corner of your property. In such case, you can add a separate fence on the two internal sides, connecting to the perimeter fence, to completely enclose the pool.
POOL COVER BARRIERS
For above ground pools without a complete surround deck, you can skip this section. A full pool deck allows you to install a safety pool cover, which is just about the best barrier you can buy, if only during the off season. You could also use it during the season, but it's not exactly convenient. Many people I know use a safety pool cover during the winter and a mesh safety fence during the summer, so that the pool is always protected.
Other types of pool covers that float on the pool (solar covers, winter covers) are not safe at all, as a pool safety barrier.
POOL NET BARRIERS
Now here's an interesting idea. Stretch a strong and open mesh net over the pool so tightly that a child can't remove it, but an adult can pull it off in under 1 minute! I don't know why this product hasn't exploded like wildfire, it's nearly as good as a safety cover, and lasts for years.
These nets are made by Katch A Kid and Water Warden, and can also catch sticks big leaves for you!
POOL LADDER BARRIERS
One of the dark secrets of aboveground pools is that pool ladders directly lead to countless tragedies. An open A-frame ladder is like an open invitation to a child to climb up and have a look at the pool.
Safety pool ladders or locking pool ladders are usually required on permitted above ground pools, but many portable pools are sold with flimsy ladders that are inherently unsafe. They advise you to remove the ladder when the pool is not in use. It would be safer to strap a large board to the ladder, to block the treads, when not in use.
If your pool uses an A-Frame type ladder, please use only the lockable type of ladders (and remember to lock it!).