In the dog days of summer, is there anything better than a dip in the pool?
Pools are common enough, even in backyards, that we sometimes forget how dangerous they can be. Nationwide, a staggering 300 children under 5 years old drown in residential swimming pools every year. It’s usually in a backyard pool owned by their family. More than 2,000 children in the same age group end up in the hospital for submersion injuries. Across all age groups, about 10 people die from drowning every day in the U.S.
McNabola Law Group is headquartered in Chicago, which isn’t exactly the sunbelt, where pools have become one of the top causes of a child’s death. But there are still plenty of pools in Chicago and its suburbs, and plenty of possible dangers.
Backyard pools can be extraordinarily dangerous because typically there are no certified lifeguards whose primary duty is to prevent drowning. The Red Cross Manual clearly set forth the responsibility of a professional lifeguard. But as with so many things, the danger can be drastically reduced by taking the proper precautions.
• Never leave a child unsupervised near a pool that does not have lifeguards present, even for a moment. Children should be under the clear supervision of an adult whenever they are near a pool. It doesn’t have to be the same adult; parents or guardians could switch off keeping a close eye on the kids. This method could help keep watchers fresh and alert.
• Lifeguards are required to constantly supervise swimmers in the zone of responsibility to which they are assigned. It is a very straight forward and simple requirement. Parents must be aware that the lifeguards are not overwhelmed with too many reckless swimmers.
• Children who have had swimming lessons are still at a high risk of drowning. Even if your kids are strong young swimmers, they must be supervised.
• Flotation devices are not a substitute for supervision. Water wings, pool noodles, even a life jacket — none of these can replace s certified lifeguard or an adult keeping a close eye on a child.
• Learn how to recognize drowning and pick up on signs of distress in the water. Drowning in real life doesn’t look like drowning on TV. Learn the quiet signs of drowning.
• Get certified in CPR. The American Red Cross offers classes, as do most fire departments. Babysitters, grandparents and older siblings — anyone who watches the kids near the pool — should also know CPR.
There are other safety measures that can help, too. Door alarms or residential padlocks are a good idea to help protect adventurous young kids — they give an audible alert when the door leading toward the pool opens, so that young children can’t get to the pool without you knowing about it. You can even get alarms that sit in or on your pool and alert you when the water is disturbed. Here’s a rundown of four different types of alarms that could work for any family backyard pool.
Pool covers are also a good idea. A mechanized cover fully covers the pool and is required to support the weight of multiple adults, so keeping kids out of the pool when you’re not around is no problem.
And every backyard pool should have a fence around it. CPSC has plenty of guidance for fences and barriers around pools on its website.
So, like many things we’ve talked about in the McNabola blog, pools are potentially dangerous but can be made much safer with a few safety precautions. Have a fun — and safe — summer!