Kids and Pool Safety
Updated: Sep 3
Pool safety isn’t just a thing you read or talk about once.
Pool safety is a way of life.
A cause that women like Debbie Haderle are so devoted to, that they’ll spend an entire evening as the self-designated “pool watcher.” “The host had hired a lifeguard,” says guest Debbie. “Kids were swimming and parents were drinking margaritas.” When festivities moved to the dance floor, Haderle was surprised to see the lifeguard himself stepping away. “The host assured me all the kids were out of the water,” she says. She wasn’t assured, then went out to the pool and found a two-year-old toeing the water, without delay she swooped him up to safety. At the same moment, a teary-eyed mother came running, noting they were just in line for ice cream and he’d disappeared. Drowning happens that fast, in the time it takes to order a cone with sprinkles. Despite all we know about preventing it, it’s still the leading cause of accidental deaths in children 4 and under and the second leading cause for children aged 5-9.
As scary and upsetting as it is, the best way to prevent child drownings is by talking about them. Educating people who have pools on the safety measures available and necessary is the best tool at your disposal. Talk about it with other parents and share tools to protect children. “Many pool laws are made locally and advocating at the local level is often the most effective way to achieve change,” says Parents advisor Gary A. Smith, M.D., director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, in Columbus, Ohio. Equally important is to talk with your children, tell them, “You don’t go in or near the water without a grown-up, just like you don’t cross the street without a grown-up. It is dangerous.” You should regularly reinforce this message the way you do all other household rules.
Designate water watchers
Water watchers, make sure there is someone tasked with watching all the children in or near the pool and rotate so everyone gets to enjoy the fun while maintaining safety.
Consider swimming lessons as health care essentials. You cannot drown-proof anyone, but proper swim training can dramatically increase the chances of survival in cases of a slip or fall into the water. Don’t rely on swim wings or any other floatation device to keep your child alive, they create dependency on the device and don’t allow a child to move properly to be able to tread water or even float on their back to potentially save themselves.
Be smart about servicing. When having the pool serviced or if you do it yourself, make sure any safety pool covers are working properly, make sure any electric components are up to code, and any safety gates are properly maintained.
Put your phone away.
A child can slip past the point they can reach and drown in the time it takes to make a post to Instagram. This doesn’t mean leave your phone at home but tuck it away in your bag and encourage your friends to do the same. If you absolutely must send a quick email or text be sure to get another adult to have eyes on your child while you step away for a moment.
While a completely enclosed, four-sided fence may not fit the aesthetics of your landscaping, it’s far better than knowing your child could have been saved by something so simple. “Having an unfenced pool is like having an uncaged lion in your backyard,” says Morgan Miller, wife of Olympian Bode Miller and mom of Emmy, whose tragic death at 19 months in a friend’s pool catapulted childhood drowning into the national spotlight. “To a child, that big furry animal could look like something fun to play with. It’s appealing and tempting. But we as adults know that a lion is deadly and can kill your child.” Install a fence at least 4 feet high around all four sides of the pool. The fence should not have openings or protrusions that a young child could use to get over, under, or through.
After swim time.
Make it a point to collect and store all toys and floats, which can be tempting to curious kids. You should also install and maintain a pump to prevent potentially deadly puddling on your pool cover, and make sure to keep a lifesaving ring, floats, and a shepherd’s crook reaching pole in the same spot always.
“Kids are fast, curious, and mobile,” says Dr. Hoffman. In-ground pool alarms, motorized pool-safety covers, dead-bolt locks on back doors, four-sided pool fences, and Coast Guard–approved flotation devices are all good and vital options that can stand between your family and devastating tragedy. "You should be able to hear a buzzing noise every time the door or gate opens," says Tom Krzmarzick, MD, medical director of the Regional Pediatric Trauma.
While it’s not a fun topic to read or talk about, pool safety is something we can have a small amount of knowledge about and potentially save lives. For more information on pool safety and help with the installation of pools, safety gates, covers, etc. contact Holiday Time Pools at 479-721-1960.