Your Guide to a Safer Pool Party
In an effort to decrease drownings in California, a leading cause of death there for children ages 1 to 4, the state recently passed a law that requires owners of newly constructed or remodeled pools and spas to include specific safety features. Even if you don’t live in the Golden State, you can make your own backyard pool just as safe for swimmers with these tips.
It should completely surround all four sides and separate the pool from your home, says Emily Samuel, senior program manager of Safe Kids Worldwide. In order to keep curious kids out, a fence needs to be at least 4 feet high with a self-closing and self-latching gate. Whenever you’re not using the pool, close it off with a properly fitted cover. It should go over the entire surface area of the pool and not allow any water to collect on top. It’s like a home-alert system but for the backyard. While it isn’t mandatory, the new California law recommends that residents choose between two types: one that’s placed on the door or window that leads from the house to the pool or one that goes directly in the water. Both should make a continuous audible sound if the door is opened or left ajar or if someone enters the pool. Giant swan floaties, noodles, and inflatable rafts are lots of fun, but they shouldn’t take the place of personal flotation devices (PFDS), which are designed to keep kids afloat in water. Always have a hook or a Pfd—like a life jacket, a life preserver, or a ring buoy—in an accessible spot near the pool. If someone is ever in distress, reach out to him with the preserver—don’t get in the water—to safely pull him to the side. (Consider taking a water-safety skills and CPR class one weekend to brush up on proper retrieval strategies.) If several adults are at the pool, designate 15-minute shifts for each person to keep their full attention on the kids who are in or around the water. Young children should be an arm’s reach away from an adult at all times (you might have to get in!), while older kids should be reminded to never swim without a buddy just in case one of them needs to call for help. It might be small, but you should give it the same care and attention as a big pool. Empty it as soon as your child is done splashing around, and store it upside down so it doesn’t collect water.