When it comes to summer activities, quality pool time with the family is usually at the top of the list. That’s why it’s always essential to make sure yours is as safe as possible.
Recently, a video of a toddler climbing a locked pool ladder made its way around the Internet. It’s terrifying, because even a non-parent can see how quickly the situation could have turned fatal had the child’s father not been carefully watching. But it’s a good reminder of just how deadly pools can be for kids, and why one safeguard isn’t enough.
“Our coalition follows the National Drowning Prevention Alliance’s (NDPA) recommendation regarding ‘Layers of Protection,’” says Paula DiGrigoli. DiGrigoli is the executive director for the NCH Safe & Healthy Children’s Coalition of Collier County, a group that works to keep kids safe in a place with tons of pools and waterways. “Layers include various types of barriers, including supervision, fences, pool covers, alarms, education, and more,” she adds.
Here’s how to build out your layers so you have a fun and relaxing spot to spend the summer, instead of a source of anxiety and possible tragedy.
Continue With Supervision
It goes without saying, but always accompany your kids if they’re in the pool. In fact, NDPA recommends you always keep a phone by your pool, so that an adult isn’t lured away from the pool when it rings—and so you have it at arm’s reach should something happen. Even inside your home, if you have a pool or waterways nearby, you need to be aware of where your kids are at all times.
Build Physical Barriers
All pools should have a fence around them, with a gate that latches. Homes with pools should also have door and window alarms, which will alert you if a child leaves the home unexpectedly. In Collier County, where DiGrigolio works, the county offers free alarms to any homeowner who requests them. Check with your county or city for similar programs.
Above-ground pools, meanwhile, should have locks on the ladders. However, that alone may not be enough to stop kids from getting in it. Finally, investing in a locking safety pool cover (versus a flimsy cover that simply keeps debris out) is a worthy endeavor.
Educate the Entire Family
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests starting swimming lessons early—kids between 1-4 years old should be actively taught how to swim. Still, the Academy warns that swimming lessons alone won’t “drown-proof” your child. Keep barriers in place and always supervise your children, even if they are practically fish in their water-adeptness.
DiGrigoli says that any pool owner also has a responsibility to be CPR certified. Find a class near you by visiting the American Heart Association’s website. Also, it’s worth knowing what drowning looks like—because it doesn’t always look the way you might think. This Slate story on the subject is a must-read for anyone who has a pool or regularly visits the beach.
Deck Out Your Pool Deck
Not with cool toys, but with rescue gear. The National Drowning Prevention Association recommends having a lifesaving ring, a shepherd’s hook, and a copy of CPR instructions posted by your pool. You should also have a phone (perhaps even a landline, so you never worry about it being out of batteries or having no signal), and a first aid kit. Also, make sure there’s a spot to stash rafts and pool toys when the pool is not in use. Seeing a cool pool toy can be just the enticement a kid needs to leap in when no one else is around.