Every year nearly 300 children under the age of 5 drown in swimming pools in the United States, making it the leading cause of death for children in that age range. Tragically, 87 % of these deaths occur in backyard pools.
Fortunately, you can take steps to substantially reduce the likelihood of an accidental drowning in your home pool.
The No. 1 rule is never to leave a child unattended or unsupervised around a pool.
Consider these safety measures in and around your pool:
- Fencing. Surround the pool with four-sided isolation fencing (at least 4-5 feet high) that separates the pool area from the house and yard with a self-closing and latching gate out of the reach of children. According to the American Red Cross, a four-sided isolation fence reduces a child’s risk of drowning by more than 80%.
- Barrier. Install barriers and door alarms/locks out of the reach of children on all doors and windows with access to the pool area.
- Pool alarm. Install an underwater pool alarm that sounds when someone enters the pool. Make sure the sound is distinctive and has speakers so you can hear the alarm from all areas of the house.
- Pool cover. Use lockable or powered pool covers when the pool is not in use and ensure they are in good working order. Also ensure the covers have no rips or tears that a child could step through. Be cautious if using a floating pool cover, often used to heat a pool. Because this type often is opaque, a child might not recognize the danger and step through it.
- Drain cover. Install anti-entrapment drain covers and safety release systems to protect against drain entrapment.
- Pet doors. Although convenient for your pet, pet doors should not be accessible to the pool area because young children can crawl through them.
- Security. If you have an above ground pool, secure, lock and remove any item such as steps, furniture or toys when the pool is not being actively supervised by an adult.
- Storage. Portable pools should be fenced or covered when not in use. If possible, they should be emptied and stored. Remove all ladders or points of entry from around the pool.
- Equipment. Make sure all lifesaving equipment – rings, poles, floats – are easily reachable and available. Seconds are critical when responding to a potential drowning.
“Home Pool and Hot Tub Safety” The American Red Cross (2019)
“Safety Barrier Guidelines for Residential Pools” Preventing Child Drownings – United States Consumer Products Safety Commission
This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article.