Pools are a great source of summer fun, offering a watery playground for kids and adults, a cool respite during a hot day and a low-impact way to burn some calories. Yet, they can also be the source of danger. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 3,800 people unintentionally drown per year (based on 2005-2014 averages). Drowning is responsible for more deaths in children 1-4 years than any other cause aside from birth defects. And fatalities only tell part of the story. For every child who drowns, another five visit the ER for pool-related injuries.
Understanding and Prevention
As you might expect, states like Texas, Florida, and Arizona report the highest rates of pool drowning injuries and deaths each year and the rates of drowning spike sharply all over the country from May to August. Taking a look at the ways people drown is more than just an exercise in the macabre. It can shed a light on what behaviors to target in order to prevent drownings. Below are common ways people drown, and pool safety tips for kids and adults should use to help lower the risk.
Lack of Swimming Knowledge and Ability
Two recent research projects cited by the Red Cross show the connection between knowing how to swim and staying safe in the water. For most people, knowing how to swim helps them remain calm in the water - a key in staying safe. If a child accidentally falls in the water, they should know how to get to the surface and swim to an edge. Swim lessons don't necessarily end the risk of drowning, for instance, they can lead to an overestimation of skills, but they do help.
Lack of Barriers
According to the American Red Cross, more than 200 young children drown in backyard swimming pools each year. Children can sneak into areas within seconds and drowning can take only minutes. The CDC reports that a four-sided fence that isolates the pool (separating the pool area from the surrounding yard) reduces a child's risk of drowning by 83 percent compared to a fence that surrounds the general yard. Pool alarms and pool safety covers can be lifesaving devices. Pools should be accessible only through self-closing and self-latching gates. Consider installing a door alarm on the pool and make sure safety covers are installed and used properly.
Lack of Supervision
The media's portrayal of drowning is typically one of thrashing about and shouting for help. However, drowning is often a quiet, gradual affair, which makes careful supervision paramount to pool child safety. According to HealthyChildren.org, the best way to make sure young children are safe is to keep them within arm's reach in the water, providing what they call "touch supervision." For other children, an adult should be paying attention, watching without distraction. The adult must know how to swim, and it's even better if they're in the water with the other swimmers.
Lack of Life Jacket
In the eyes of a teenager, life jackets don't generally look cool, which makes them a hard sell. However, they make a huge difference in keeping swimmers safe. If you don't know how to swim or are just beginning to learn, wear a life jacket. If kids are uncomfortable wearing them, there are alternatives like swimsuits with built-in floats. Adults can set a good example by wearing them too.
Pool Safety for Kids and Adults: Other Things to Consider
PoolSafely.gov warns of the dangers of pool and spa drains. Teach children to avoid the drains and suction outlets. Powerful suction from a broken or malfunctioning drain can be strong enough to trap an adult.
Keep drinks to a minimum. As few as two drinks can slow your reflexes and affect judgment should a situation arise.
Sun exposure, diving injuries, thunderstorms and exposure to pool chemicals -- all of these are additional dangers to be aware of in the scope of pool safety for kids and adults. Diving injuries, in particular, can be easily prevented. If the pool is less than six feet deep, don't allow diving.
Swimming Pool Safety Rules to Embrace
A way of ensuring your pool experience is a safe one is to establish, explain and enforce the rules. While you can figure out what might work best for your pool, the following are basic swimming pool rules and regulations that will help keep swimmers safe:
- • No swimming without supervision for kids 16 and under.
- • Only swim with a partner for older kids and adults.
- • Walk on the pool deck and around the pool edge. No running!
- • No electrical devices near the water.
- • No diving in water that is less than six feet deep.
Pool Safety for Pets
Don't forget your furry friends! Most of the safety measures you put in place to keep humans safe also go a long way in keeping pets safe. However, there are some specifics that will help prevent pet tragedy. SwimmingPool.com suggests the following:
- • Familiarize your pet with the water so they can learn to swim.
- • Install a pet safety ladder so your pet can exit the water if they fall or jump in.
- • Keep pets away from the pool unless someone is there to supervise.
- • Pool covers aren't safe for pets. They can actually falsely imply a solid surface and then can trap pets.
- • If your pet does have a water incident, take them to a veterinarian immediately to get checked out.
While there's no way to remove the risk of drowning entirely, safe behavior and a culture of care around water can help keep it to a minimum.