Cooling-off in the backyard pool or relaxing in the hot tub are real treats that many of us enjoy now that the warmer weather is here. Tragically though, there are numerous reports from all across the country, of serious injury and drowning every year. Luckily, most of these incidences are entirely preventable.
Drowning is a leading cause of injury-related death for Canadian children, and it often happens quickly and silently. Establishing strict rules and applying precautionary measures for your family pool can help to ensure a safer and more enjoyable environment for all.
Rules, Access & Supervision
- Pool areas must be secured with fencing that is at least 4 feet high and includes a self-closing, latched gate to restrict access. Be sure that your pool fence also complies with local municipal regulations.
- Aside from the fencing, the number 1 rule in pool safety is to never, ever leave young children unattended at any time. No exceptions. A child can easily slip under the water and drown in the time it takes to answer the phone or the front door. Always leave a responsible person in charge of the pool area when being used and ensure that this individual is a strong swimmer as well.
- When in the water with small children or weak swimmers, always stay within arm’s reach in case they have difficulty staying afloat
- Young or inexperienced swimmers should always wear an approved life jacket when in the pool area
- It’s a good idea to have all family members know how to swim and tread water effectively. Enrolment in a course of professionally recognized swimming and water safety lessons should be mandatory for those who are learning the fundamentals.
- If you find that a child is missing anywhere around your home, check the pool area first to be on the safe side
- Keep your pool and surrounding area well lit at night to be able to spot problems more easily
- Establish and enforce safe behaviors that include clear diving restrictions and rules around running on the deck, pushing, roughhousing and dunking etc.
- A buddy system for swim time is a great way to help ensure overall safety and communication
- Keep your pool deck clear of toys and debris to help avoid slips and falls
- When your pool is not in use, put toys and floatation devices away, so they ?will not attract young children to the water
- Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapment
- Avoid heavy medication or alcohol to excess when using your pool or hot tub. A clear mind is always best when supervising others and to avoid personal injury or death.
- Always be diligent in keeping pool gates and any doors or windows leading to the pool area from the house, secured so that youngsters cannot access on their own/li>
- Small portable or kiddie pools should always be emptied when not in use
- Above-ground pools should have the ladder or steps removed when not in use to better restrict access
First Aid & Emergency Planning
Ensure that everyone in your home knows how to respond to aquatic emergencies by taking water safety, first aid and CPR courses from the Red Cross or other professionally recognized organization. It’s also important to stay current on rescue techniques with refresher courses.
- Be sure that whoever else may supervise children at your home pool (neighbours, other family members, babysitters etc.) are qualified (or at the very least competent) in lifesaving techniques.
- Keep a well-stocked first aid kit available to deal with cuts and other minor injuries. A good pair of scissors is also recommended in the event that you need to free a swimmer who becomes entangled in a drain or filter system.
- Always have a mobile or portable phone in the pool area in the event that you need to place an emergency call
- Have a family action plan in-place that includes emergency procedures, communication and the use of safety equipment
Hot Tubs & Spas
All of the safety precautions for swimming pools will also apply to hot tubs & spas. There are some added risks and rules that need to be considered though.
- Often, hot tubs don’t have the same closed-in fencing that pools do. Ensure that all children clearly understand that these spas are off-limits without adult supervision and that they are not play areas.
- Where there are children in the home, be sure to use a secure, lockable cover to restrict access when not in use
- Don't allow underwater play in a hot tub, as spa jets and drains can suck hair in, trapping a child underwater
- Ensure that any drains or jets meet current safety standards and that any faulty or broken parts are replaced immediately
- Know where the pump cutoff switch is located so that it can be turned off in an emergency
- Don't allow the water temperature to exceed 40°C (104°F). This level of heat can be dangerous to younger children, pregnant women and can cause drowsiness or unconsciousness leading to drowning in others.
Equipment & Maintenance
Keeping your pool or spa in good condition and maintaining proper safety equipment are two more key factors that can help to minimize risk.
- Keep essential rescue items near the pool at all times (i.e. life ?preserver, buoy and shepherd's hook)
- Keep your pool or hot tub water clean and clear by maintaining proper chemical levels, circulation and filtration. Not only does this help with visibility for safety, but it also reduces the risk of earaches, rashes or more serious ailments.
- Secure all cleaning supplies and additives such as chlorine in a locked area, and be sure to keep children away from the pool or spa when adding chemicals to the water
- The addition of swimming pool and hot tub hand rails and stair rails provides extra protection against slips and falls
- Be sure to use current drain covers that are designed to avoid complete blockage and the potential entrapment of a swimmer under water. Immediately replace any drain covers that become damaged.
- A Safety Vacuum Release System — or SVRS for short — is an automatic suction force release system that engages whenever a body or limb becomes trapped on a drain. Once installed by a professional, an SVRS requires little or no maintenance.
- Most winter or solar pool covers are not designed to keep people out of the water and should not be relied upon as safety devices. Safety covers come in several types and have specific features and weight tolerances. Speak to a pool equipment professional or local authorities for details.
- Pool safety nets are an alternative to a complete cover and provide a safe, secure barrier while preserving the view and ambience of the swimming pool area. The size of the net's squares are the foundation of its safety potential. The squares are small enough that children can't fall through, but are too big to walk or stand on. As with all safety barriers, the net is only to be used as deterrent and children should still never be left alone near the pool.
- Using alarm systems in and around the pool area is another way to ensure that younger children can’t get access to the water. These range from simple gate, door and window alarms, to more sophisticated motion detection systems for the pool deck area. There are also wrist alarms for children that activate if they are immersed in water and pool-mounted wave sensors that sound an alarm if anything bigger than 15 pounds enters the water.
With the proper rules, training and equipment in-place for your backyard pool or spa, you can reduce the inherent risks and dangers, and at the same time, make your pool environment a more enjoyable and stress-free place for everyone.