There is absolutely no way to over-emphasize the importance of making your pool safe for children. A backyard swimming pool, while beautiful to look at and fun to use during the hot summer months, can be extremely dangerous for our little ones. Drowning happens quickly and mostly without any cry for help.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 3,306 people died from drowning in 2003; that is an average of 9 people a day! Drowning is the number one cause of death for children under five in Florida, Arizona, and California with a ranking of number two for over a dozen other states. For every drowning there are eleven near drowning incidents, according to government statistics; many of which result in totally disabling brain damage.
If possible, wait until your child is at least 5 years old before installing a pool in your backyard. If you already have a pool, you must immediately take measures to protect your children. Remember, teaching your child how to swim DOES NOT mean he or she is safe in the water.
Take proper safety precautions
1. Never leave children alone in or near any pool. Always stay within arm's reach of younger children. This should be totally obvious to anyone but the truth is that most children drown during the few minutes it takes for their parents or guardians to answer the phone or do a household chore. So, for emphasis, we repeat: Never leave children alone in or near any pool.
2. Teach your children to always swim with a buddy and NOT to run near the pool, push or jump on others in the water or dive into the shallow end.
3. Never let your pool water get so murky that you can't clearly see the bottom of the pool.
4. If a child is missing, always look first at the pool. Seconds count!
5. Most young children who drown in pools wander out of the house and accidentally fall into the pool. This is why you are now required to install a fence at least 4 feet high around all 4 sides of the pool to completely separate the pool from the house and play area of the yard. (In California, the fence has to be at least 5 feet high.) Use gates that self-close and self-latch, with latches higher than your children's reach.
6. If your house forms one side of the barrier for the pool, doors leading from the house to the pool should be protected with alarms that sound when the doors are unexpectedly opened.
7. A motor-powered safety barrier placed over the water area that meets the standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) adds to the protection of your children but should not be used in place of the fence between your house and the pool.
8. Be prepared for an emergency. Keep rescue equipment (such as a shepherd's hook or life preserver) and a telephone by the pool. Learn CPR and have it taught to anyone who watches your children. (Most hospitals offer free lessons.) Teach your children the basics of water survival when he or she is capable of crawling or walking to the pool.
9. Don't use air-filled "swimming aids" in lieu of approved life vests and preservers.
10. Remove all toys from the pool after use so children aren't tempted to reach for them.
11. After kids are done swimming, secure the pool so they can't get back into it.
12. For above ground pools, steps and ladders to the pool should be secured or removed when the pool is not in use.
13. Never permit a child to play in a way that could allow the child's hair near the drain cover. Hair entrapment occurs when a bather's hair becomes entangled in a suction fitting drain cover as the water and hair are drawn powerfully through the drain. In several incidents, children were playing a "hold your breath the longest" game, leaning forward in the water and permitting their long hair to get sucked into the drain.
14. Most accidents with drain outlets involve people with hair that is shoulder-length or longer. Keep long hair away from the suction fitting drain cover. Wear a bathing cap or pin up long hair.
15. Plainly mark the location of the electrical cut-off switch for the pool or spa pump. If someone is entrapped against a drain, cut off the pump immediately. Instead of trying to pull the person away from the powerful suction, pry a hand between the drain and the person's body to break the seal.
16. There is a voluntary standard for drain covers (ASME/ANSI A112.19.8M-1987) to help reduce hair entrapment. The new drain covers are usually domed-shaped instead of flat. Ask your dealer about drain covers that meet this voluntary standard.
17. Consider installing a Safety Vacuum Release System (SVRS), a device that will automatically shut off a pump if a blockage in a drain is detected.
18. If your drain cover is missing or broken, shut down the spa or pool until you replace it.
19. Have a professional regularly inspect your pool or spa for entrapment or entanglement hazards.
20. In cold weather, drain and cover the pool to reduce risk of an accident.
For more information about pool safety contact: The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C. 20207. Visit CPSC at www.cpsc.gov, or call their hotline at (800) 638-2772.
Always remember that safety has to be your first and foremost concern. When you think about your pool, think hard core. Even if it's not part of your personality, you must be a total dictator about this. In terms of the swimming pool or spa, your children have to know unequivocally, it is your way or no way at all. In this particular case the old cliche could not be more relevant: it is far better to be safe than sorry.
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