Teaching children to swim is an important step in keeping them safe around water. If they unexpectedly fall in, they should know important skills, like how to flip to breathe and how to swim to the side and pull themselves up.
However, preventing water accidents is just as important. While we want your children to be prepared with water survival skills, we hope they never have to use them. Blocking unwanted access to water is one of the best ways to keep children safe.
If you have a backyard pool, a fence is a must. You don’t want children wandering in to take an unsupervised swim. Remember, your children aren’t the only ones who might be tempted to swim in your pool; other children in the neighborhood may also try to gain access.
Ten percent of child drownings that occur in pools happen when children are able to get through or around pool fences. Fences should be strong enough that they cannot be destroyed by children or animals, and they should be tall enough that children cannot climb them.
Bars or boards should be vertical, and the space between them should be less than four inches. If you use chain link, the mesh size should be no larger than 1 ¼ inches. For lattice, openings should be kept to no more than 1 3/4 inches.
Put thought into your gate, too. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends installing self-closing and self-latching gates.
Along with fences, it’s a good idea to employ other barriers, like pool covers. Pool covers add another layer of protection, but it’s important to keep them well maintained. Additionally, it’s essential that the control devices are kept out of reach of children.
Walls can work as a solid barrier but thought needs to be put into the construction. There should be no indentations or protrusions that could be used as handholds or footholds.
Both fences and solid barriers should be at least 48 inches high, but building them higher is better. Laws on minimum height vary, with some areas requiring barriers to be at least 60 inches high.
Above-ground pools can also have barriers installed on top of them. The bottom of the barrier should be no higher than four inches above the top of the pool.
If you have doors leading to your pool, keep them locked at all times. The importance of preventing children from having unsupervised access to a pool cannot be stressed enough. According to the CPSC, 85% of fatal drownings among children under five occur in residential areas.
As with fences, it’s imperative to equip doors with self-closing and self-latching devices that children cannot reach. You should also install alarms on all doors so you’ll be alerted if they are opened.
Door alarms should be at least 85 decibels, and the alarm should continue for a minimum of 30 seconds after the door is opened. The sound should also be different from any other alarms in the house.
Never install a pet door in a door that leads to the pool. Children have drowned after crawling through pet doors to get to a pool.
There are additional components that should make up your overall water safety approach. Ladders should be secured or removed to prevent access to your pool. If your pool has a drain, make sure to use anti-entrapment drain covers.
You may consider installing an additional poolside alarm that will sound if someone actually enters the water. Keep in mind that this type of alarm should not replace door or fence alarms since you will have less time to react to them.
Safety devices, like life rings, floats, or a reaching pole, should be available in case of accidents. Speak with neighbors to ensure they have also taken steps to prevent access to their pools.
We are all responsible for water safety. Don’t forget that even when you’ve made sure your children are protected from water with fences, barriers, doors, and other systems, you have an important role to play, too, as a water watcher.
Any time children are in or around the water, there should be a designated adult watching who is not engaged in other activities or otherwise distracted. If we all do our part, swimming can be a fun and safe activity.
Learning To Swim
Having your child being able to swim effectivly and not panic in case of a water emergecy is naturally the best way to keep your child safe around pools. Sign up for swimming lessons for kids at your local Bear Paddle Swim School today!