Pools are fantastic for recreation and exercise, and if you’ve got one in your own backyard, you know how much joy they can bring. But it’s important to keep in mind the risks involved, and to set up a few guidelines to ensure everyone’s safety.
Here are a few pool safety basics that work well for everyone:
- Children require supervision during pool time. It doesn’t matter if your littles have had years of swimming lessons, something can still go wrong in the absence of an adult. Anyone under 12, or even a child over 12 who isn’t a confident swimmer, needs to be in the presence of an attentive adult while in and around the pool.
Even older children who swim well still don’t have the judgment or experience to assist a younger child in trouble. Add to that the fact that kids will be distracted with their own play rather than monitoring others, and it’s easy to see why an adult needs to be present. After all, drowning can happen in as little as 2 minutes! Best to play it safe.
- Post and discuss the pool rules with all swimmers. Even a small backyard pool without a “deep end” should have a few safety guidelines. And they need to be followed by everyone! If you tell the kiddos “no running” or “no drinks in the pool,” make sure the adults are following along as well!
It may seem obvious that diving into a 5-foot pool is a bad idea, but younger kids may not think that through the way an adult does. Keep the rules short, simple, and based on common sense. If you’d like, you can check out your local hardware store or pool supply shop for signage that outlines popular pool rules.
- Speaking of rules, “no horseplay” is a big one. We all know it’s normal for children to get a bit rowdy when playing pool games. But there’s a point at which it can become dangerous.
Shoving others into the pool, or playing roughly near stairs, ladders and slopes in the pool floor is an easy recipe for disaster. Be sure everyone knows the limits, in order to avoid falls, injuries, or a weak swimmer slipping into too-deep water.
- Get familiar with the pool and surrounding area. Is there a slick spot you’ve noticed on the deck, that you should warn your guests about? A broken tile along the wall that could cut small fingers?
This is a good practice especially in public pools. Take a moment to make note of depth markers, ladders, and so forth. Even sturdy swimmers can tire out easily while playing in the sun, so it’s good to identify safe zones and exit points.
- Consider using a buddy system and an “alarm word.” Even with an attentive adult present, children in the pool may see an accident more quickly, especially if a buddy system has been implemented. This is especially helpful with larger pools where several swimmers may be playing loudly and obscuring a clear view of the entire area.
Pick a word that everyone knows and is easy to remember, to use if something suddenly goes wrong. “Help” may be used too frequently in pool games to draw immediate attention, so consider picking something like “danger” -or just get creative! Just be sure everyone is on the same page about which word, and what happens when it’s used.
- Learn First Aid and CPR. Make sure that at least one adult in your home knows how to calmly and effectively address a sudden emergency. The courses are often offered for free, and they only take a few hours.
Knowing what to do in the face of an injury or a near-drowning can literally save lives. You also need to be sure you see a doctor immediately if someone has inhaled water. Oddly enough, drowning can happen hours after inhaling water, even if the person seemed okay for awhile!
- Use appropriate flotation devices. The classic inflatable “floaties” may be okay for a child with basic swimming skills who is also being closely monitored. But there is a reason that many public pools and water parks only allow standard life jackets.
Floaties, whether they go around a child’s arms or waist, can be taken off far too easily. Additionally, most of them don’t prevent a child’s face from submerging. If you’ve got a little one who is still learning to swim, go ahead and invest in a proper life jacket.
- Check the water first. This is especially true in the springtime when it may still be cold, and most important when bringing babies and toddlers into the pool.
Being suddenly submerged in water that is colder than you expected can shock your body. This can result in muscle stiffness and a sense of “losing your breath,” both of which can make it more difficult to swim properly. Check the temperature first, so you know what to expect before hopping in.
- Keep appropriate safety equipment nearby. Even for small pools, you still want to have the basics on-hand in the event of a distressed swimmer. A long pole, or a “lifesaver” on a rope can quickly relieve someone who’s gotten too fatigued to reach the edge of the pool.
A basic first aid kit should also be kept within reach. All of these items can be found at your pool supply store, or even at a big-box stores like Wal-Mart. Again, when it comes to pool time, safety is the #1 consideration.