Pool Safety Tips

We'd like to extend special thanks to our friends at the Albany Medical College for sending in this article. See more about their curriculum, training, and campus at AMC.edu

Swimming Pools – Keeping it Fun

Summer is here! Whether you are at work or at home with family, swimming and pool safety goes a long way to make sure the water remains fun. Here are a few thoughts for us all to live by.

Swimming is a life skill - teach your kids to swim; if you don’t feel comfortable teaching your children to swim, try the local YMCA, the parks and recreation department or even a local school district. Take some swim lessons yourself – these same sources will very frequently offer adult lessons as well. Learning to swim is fun and learning safety around water can be lifesaving.

Anytime you are near the water and children are present, watch out and never leave them unattended. Make sure one adult is tasked with supervising children in the water. That should be their only task – they shouldn’t be drinking, playing games or texting on their phone. You’ve got to watch kids carefully because a drowning child is silent, not loud; you may not notice until it is too late. Always have a phone within reach in case you need to call for help. If a child is missing, always check the pool first.

Even if a lifeguard is present, parents and caregivers should still take the responsibility of watching their children. Lifeguards may not be able to see the entire pool, they may rotate assignments between shifts, or their view can be blocked by other people in the pool. Know where the deep end is, how gradually the depth increases, and make sure there is a marker that kids can see. Be particularly aware of kids on floating devices, as they can get into water much deeper than they are prepared to handle.

Jumping and diving into the water is also a ton of fun – “cannon ball!” But safety needs to come first here as well. No jumping or diving if there are others in the water where you will be landing. No diving unless the pool or water source is approved for diving. Landing on someone in the water or striking your head on the bottom of the pool can be deadly.

Safety in rescue is key! Years ago, the Boy Scouts and the American Red Cross used to use the acronym, “Reach, Throw, Row, Go,” to highlight the steps to take for a water rescue. The worst thing that can happen is for one victim to become two! This teaching still holds true today – reach from land for the person in trouble first with your arm or a pole, then throw them a safety line or life ring, if at a lake, row a boat out to help them, and only swim to rescue someone if you are a very strong swimmer and are trained in water rescue. A scared drowning person can easily pull an inexperienced swimmer under as well.

Even if you are not personally enjoying the pool, there are still hazards to be aware of as a pool owner – let’s face it, there are few things that can really be classified as quite as attractive a safety risk as a pool on a hot summer day! Neighborhood kids may try to play in your pool without your knowledge. Preventing unknown entry into the pool is paramount. Be certain that you have a proper fence or other barrier that is up to code, as well as an alarm and/or protective cover. The water should only be accessible through a self-closing, self-latching gate. Fences should be at least four feet high and surround the pool on all sides. Kids should not be able to climb the fence easily. Beware the sliding door onto the deck or patio, because a fence around a pool will not guard from a child coming out of the house. Consider a door alarm between the house and the pool area.

Proper pool maintenance can also be lifesaving. Children may find it fun to play with suction or drain openings, but children have died when bathing suits, hair or even limbs have gotten stuck in these openings in pools and hot-tubs. Protective covers for suction inlets must be present. Do not let kids play or swim near drains or suction outlets. There should also be an emergency vacuum/suction off switch that is easily accessible. Be certain you know where it is, just in case.

Sometimes, in spite of the best efforts at prevention, tragedy still occurs. If anyone is found unresponsive in water, you should treat them as though they have injured their neck. Prevent neck movement as much possible while caring for them and while removing them from the water. Any person who has been unconscious in water should be evaluated by a doctor; even if they are acting normally now. Friends, family and bystanders are nearly always the first to aid a drowning victim.

Public safety personnel sometimes forget that they too can be victims. Encourage your friends and family to learn CPR – they may save your life! A few minutes of a cheesy video, some practice on an old playground ball or mannequin and you too can have the skills that it takes to save someone suffering from a sudden cardiac arrest or drowning.

Here’s wishing everyone a safe and happy summer of fun in and out of the water!

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