Many families spend time swimming in backyard or community pools, but with the fun comes possible hazards in and around the water that are preventable.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission and PoolSafely.gov have tips for families to stay safe while in or around a swimming pool:
1. Never leave a child unattended in or near water.
Always watch children when they're in or near water, and never leave them unattended. Designate an official Water Watcher, an adult tasked with supervising children in the water. That should be their only task – they shouldn't be reading, texting or playing games on their phone. Have a phone close by at all times in case you need to call for help, and if a child is missing, check the pool first.
Even if a lifeguard is present, parents and caregivers should still take the responsibility of being a designated Water Watcher. When any lifeguard chair is empty, the remaining lifeguards may not be able to see the entire pool and when lifeguards are seated in low chairs, their view can be blocked by patrons in the pool.
2. Teach children how to swim.
Swimming is not only fun, it's a lifesaving skill. Enroll children in swimming lessons; there are many free or reduced-cost options available from your local YMCA, USA Swimming chapter or Parks and Recreation Department.
3. Teach children to stay away from drains.
Do not play or swim near drains or suction outlets, especially in spas and shallow pools, and never enter a pool or spa that has a loose, broken or missing drain cover. Children's hair, limbs, jewelry or bathing suits can get stuck in a drain or suction opening. When using a spa, be sure to locate the emergency vacuum shutoff before getting in the water.
4. Ensure all pools and spas - both in your backyard and any public pool you may visit - have compliant drain covers.
Virginia Graeme Baker, after whom the Pool and Spa Safety Act is named, died from drowning due to a suction entrapment from a faulty drain cover. All public pools and spas must have drain grates or covers that meet safety standards to avoid incidents like the one that took Graeme's life. Powerful suction from a pool or spa drain can even trap an adult.
5. Install proper barriers, covers and alarms on and around your pool and spa.
Proper fences, barriers, alarms and covers can be lifesaving devices. A fence of at least four feet in height should surround the pool or spa on all sides and should not be climbable for children. The water should only be accessible through a self-closing, self-latching gate. Teach children to never try to climb over the gate or fence. Install a door alarm from the house to the pool area, and keep pool and spa covers in working order.
6. Know how to perform CPR on children and adults.
Often, bystanders are the first to aid a drowning victim, so learning CPR can help save a life. And once you're CPR certified, make sure to keep your certification current. CPR classes are available through many hospitals, community centers, or by contacting the American Red Cross.
Home pool safety
For owners of swimming pools, the American Red Cross advises owners to follow the following guidelines:
- Secure your pool with appropriate barriers. Completely surround your pool with a 4-feet high fence or barrier with a self-closing, self-latching gate. Place a safety cover on the pool or hot tub when not in use and remove any ladders or steps used for access. Consider installing a pool alarm that goes off if anyone enters the pool.
- Keep children under active supervision at all times. Stay in arm's reach of young kids. Designate a responsible person to watch the water when people are in the pool—never allow anyone to swim alone. Have young or inexperienced swimmers wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
- Ensure everyone in the home knows how to swim well by enrolling them in age-appropriate water orientation and learn-to-swim courses from the Red Cross.
- Keep your pool or hot tub water clean and clear. Maintain proper chemical levels, circulation and filtration. Regularly test and adjust the chemical levels to minimize the risk of earaches, rashes or more serious diseases.
- Establish and enforce rules and safe behaviors, such as "no diving," "stay away from drain covers," "swim with a buddy" and "walk please."
- Ensure everyone in the home knows how to respond to aquatic emergencies by having appropriate safety equipment and taking water safety, first aid and CPR courses from the Red Cross.
Dry drowning is a rare medical event that accounts for about 1 percent of all drowning incidents -- it typically happens hours after a person has inhaled water.
It affects children more often than adults.