May is National Water Safety Month and it’s that time of year again to begin enjoying the warm weather and taking advantage of the neighborhood or backyard pool. It’s a good way to have fun, keep cool, and get some good exercise. However, like many activities, there are some precautions to be taken to allow a safe time and avoid a possible trip to the Emergency Room.
In order to provide as safe an environment as possible, protection of the pool should be done in layers with alerts and alarms to warn of dangers. Safety begins in the home by using alarms on doors and windows to alert that someone is leaving the house. The pool itself should be surrounded by a fence at least 4 feet high and is secured by a self-closing, self-latching gate. The pool should not be accessible directly from the house or yard. A wall around the yard is not considered to be adequate protection.
Pool alarms are useful to alert when someone has entered the pool unnoticed. These alarms can be a floating device, but a more reliable device is an underwater motion sensor. This device monitors changes in water pressure if someone enters the pool unintentionally. Also, the child can wear a wrist alarm to notify an adult that the child has entered the water. This device may be useful when boating also.
When the pool is not in use, a mesh or solid pool cover will prevent anyone from accidentally falling into the water. This is not the same as a winter or solar pool cover.
One of the most dangerous situations is when a child is trapped by the suction drain at the bottom of the pool. It is very difficult to rescue a person manually in this situation. It is vitally important to know where the pump shut-off switch is and immediately turn it off to relieve the suction. This situation can be prevented by installing a device known as a Safety Vacuum Release System (SVRS) on the drain. This device prevents suction from being established in the first place. It must be installed by a pool professional.
There are other safety measures that can be done that do not require much effort or expense. As with any outdoor activity during the summer, be sure to apply adequate sunscreen and reapply it often during the day – even on cloudy days. It is a good idea to keep a cell phone close by with emergency numbers preprogrammed in case of an urgent situation.
Often prevention is really the best safety measure, so teaching children to swim is very important. Usually you can consider swimming lessons when the child is about 4 years of age although this will certainly depend on the maturity and physical ability of the child. In addition, parents may consider learning basic CPR in case of an emergency.
One of the most basic and important safety measures is close and constant supervision and observation by an adult. When many adults are present it is easy to become distracted so no one is really watching. It is a good idea to have one person responsible specifically for monitoring the pool at all times.
More detailed information is available at web sites such as www.redcross.org, www.swimmingpool.com, and www.healthychildren.org. Have a fun and safe summer!