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How Anyone Can Ignore Swimming Pool Safety

Updated on August 28, 2011

If you are a pool owner then it is your obligation to learn swimming pool safety. If you already know, it would be wise to refresh your memory every summer before you open the pool. It is well after Memorial Day and headlines are already appearing about kids being seriously injured or killed in residential backyard swimming pools. Let your backyard and pool area be a place for fun and enjoyment rather than a source of sorrow from an injury or a tragedy.

A drowning child can lead to a silent death. There’s no splashing to alert you that your child may be in harms way. I think we’ve all experienced a scare at one time or another, whether it was your child or the child of a friend. Let that scare serve you as a timely reminder that swimming pool safety is something to be taken very seriously. It is your obligation to provide your children and pets with the protection they so rightly deserve.

Warning! Don’t Let This Happen To You

Quite some time ago, my cousin had a repairman come by to repair her backyard swimming pool. Upon completing the job he came in through the backdoor to explain the repairs he made. As they walked toward the frontdoor, where the repairman’s car was parked outside, they stopped to chat a few minutes more.

After saying their goodbyes, my cousin called to her 2-year-old son, her only child, who disappeared from sight. No answer! She immediately raced out the backdoor to the pool. She knew that was the first place to look. There, to her horror, was her little boy at the bottom of the deep water.

I am filled with sorrow to tell you this story does not have a happy ending. The repairman forgot to close the gate behind him. If only the gate had a self-closing and self-latching feature and a backdoor alarm, this tragedy would never have happened. Layers of protection is the key to your child’s safety.

By following the swimming pool safety tips below you can prevent this from happening to you.

Swimming Pool Safety Alert

Issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)

*** FENCES & GATES ***

  • Install a fence or other barrier, such as a wall, completely around the pool. If the house is part of the barrier, the doors leading from the house to the pool should be protected with an alarm or the pool should have a power safety cover. Alarm and cover details are below.
  • The fence or other barrier should be at least 4 feet high. It should have no foot or handholds that could help a young child to climb it.
  • Vertical fence slats should be less than 4 inches apart to prevent a child from squeezing through.

Use this as a guide when the release mechanism is located less than 54 inches from the bottom of the gate.

  • If horizontal members are equal to or more than 45 inches apart, vertical spacing shall not exceed 4 inches.
  • If the fence is chain link, then no part of the diamond-shaped opening should be larger than 1-3/4 inches.
  • Fence gates should be self-closing and self-latching. The gate should be well maintained to close and latch easily. The latch should be out of a child's reach.

When the release mechanism of the self-latching device is less than 54 inches from the bottom of the gate, the release mechanism for the gate should be at least 3 inches below the top of the gate on the side facing the pool. Placing the release mechanism at this height prevents a young child from reaching over the top of a gate and releasing the latch. Also, the gate and barrier should have no opening greater than 1/2 inch within 18 inches of the latch release mechanism. This prevents a young child from reaching through the gate and releasing the latch.

There are a wide variety of fencing construction materials available to compliment your house and pool surroundings. Your local fence company or pool enclosure company can provide you with information and assist you in making a selection.

The weak link in the strongest and highest fence is a gate that fails to close and latch completely. For a gate to close completely every time, it must be in proper working order.


  • If the house forms one side of the barrier, then doors leading from the house to the pool should be protected with alarms that produce an audible sound when a door is unexpectedly opened.
  • Install an alarm that can be temporarily turned off by an adult for a single opening of the door by using a keypad or switch that is out of a child's reach.

Battery and electrically powered alarms are available. The key pad switch can be used by adults who wish to pass through the door without setting off the alarm. It should be placed high on all doors leading from the house to the pool. Affordable and easily installed alarms are available. An alarm signal immediately tells a parent that a door has been opened.

Automatic Pool Cover


Power safety covers over the pool may be used as an alternative to door alarms. A power safety cover should meet the requirements of the ASTM pool cover standard which addresses labeling requirements and performance. ASTM requires that a cover withstand the weight of two adults and a child to allow a rescue should an individual fall onto the cover. The standard also requires quick removal of water from the cover. A young child can drown in just inches of water.

A power safety cover is a motor powered barrier that can be placed over the water area. Motor-driven covers easily open and close over the pool. When the power safety cover is properly in place over the pool, it provides a high level of safety for children under 5 years old by inhibiting their access to the water.


  • Steps and ladders leading from the ground to the pool should be secured and locked, or removed when the pool is not in use.


  • Instruct babysitters about potential pool hazards to young children and about the use of protective devices, such as door alarms and latches. Emphasize the need for constant supervision.
  • Never leave a child unsupervised near a pool. During social gatherings at or near a pool, appoint a "designated watcher" to protect young children from pool accidents. Adults may take turns being the "watcher." When adults become preoccupied, children are at risk.
  • If a child is missing, check the pool first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability. Go to the edge of the pool and scan the entire pool, bottom and surface, as well as the pool area.
  • Do not allow a young child in the pool without an adult.
  • Do not consider young children to be drownproof because they have had swimming lessons. Children must be watched closely while swimming.
  • Do not use flotation devices as a substitute for supervision.
  • Learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Babysitters and other caretakers, such as grandparents and older siblings, should also know CPR.
  • Keep rescue equipment by the pool. Be sure a telephone is poolside with emergency numbers posted nearby.
  • Remove toys from in and around the pool when it is not in use. Toys can attract young children to the pool.
  • Never prop open the gate to a pool barrier.

NOTE: To obtain detailed barrier recommendations, write CPSC, Pool Barriers, Office of Information & Public Affairs, Washington, DC 20207.

More Swimming Pool Safety Tips

Filters, Pumps and Other Mechanical Parts

One aspect of pool care and safety that many neglect to consider is the maintenance of their pool filters, pumps and other mechanical parts. These parts, all of them electronic in some fashion, can cause injury or death if not used carefully. A pump with a soured cable, for example, can cause electric shock to those using and working with it. Read all safety warnings and keep them out of the reach of children.

First-Aid Kits

First-aid kits are a must by any pool. First-aid kits should be constantly re-stocked and have all pertinent items needed for pool and other backyard emergencies.

Chlorine and Other Pool Chemicals

One of the most important things you need to do when you have a pool is to make sure that you keep all the pool chemicals and toxic materials used to keep the pool clean out of the reach of children. These chemicals are very dangerous, and should be treated as such.

Life Jackets and Ring Buoys

Life jackets and ring buoys are two important types of flotation devices commonly found around residential pools. Lifejackets should properly fit the person wearing it and be in a good and safe condition. Lifejackets should be tight fitting and not be able to slip off and should be approved by the Coast Guard. Ring Buoys are round flotation devices that have a long rope or line attached. Ring buoys are used to retrieve someone from the water in the event of an emergency. They are available in different sizes and colors and should also be approved by the Coast Guard.

Last, But Not Least

The majority of parents who had children involved in swimming pool accidents, according to government statistics, were responsible people who thought it could never happen to their family. To ensure swimming pool safety, provide layers of protection and be observant. Watch what your kids are up to, and supervise their activities. Never leave them alone even for one second.


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    • Dottie1 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from MA, USA

      Good idea Kenny, thanks for coming by.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I think anyone looking to build a pool in their home should have to go through some kind of pool safety course and get certified in CPR to know what the risk are and hopefully prevent as many accidents as possible.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      9 years ago from East Coast, United States

      It was pretty incredible.

    • Dottie1 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from MA, USA

      Very very interesting Dolores. Thanks for sharing this amazing dog safety feature story. I've never heard of this. Dogs at work are very obedient and have incredible focused attention. These dogs are heros.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      9 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Dotti, what a sad, horrible story. I hope that your sharing it will prevent other such tragedies. Here is one pool safety feature I found strange but compelling:

      In-ground pool, little kid, no adults. We were visiting next door. I almost had a fit, but the guy we were visiting said watch. Accompanying the little kid was a very large German shepherd. If the child moved an inch, the dog repositioned himself. The dog was between the child and the pool at all times. The dog's attention never waivered. It was incredible.

      Maybe not the safest solution but an interesting tactic nonetheless.

    • Dottie1 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from MA, USA

      Excellent comment agvulpes. Thank you so much for passing through and adding much value to this site. We all need to be reminded again and again and again the importance of human supervision when kids are in or playing around the pool. Accidents do happen but raising awareness is worth its weight in gold if it can save the life of even one more child from a needless drowning.

    • agvulpes profile image


      9 years ago from Australia

      Dottie, great information. In the state of Victoria where I live it is mandatory to have child proof fences and self closing gates fitted to all pools in homes. This rule is very rigorously policed but there is still stupidity carried out by some people (propping gates open etc.)

      You still can't beat human supervision when kids are in the pool.

    • Dottie1 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from MA, USA

      THANK-YOU! THANK-YOU! THANK-YOU! It is people like you Motherhood Trials who actively get involved that will prevent a child from drowning! What an awesome advocate you are for our children! THANK-YOU AGAIN!

    • profile image

      Motherhood Trials 

      9 years ago

      You have a very good page for this topic and I will be sure to pass it along as we are entering our summer months once again. I am so very sorry to hear of your cousins child in this story and that has prompted me to come up with a summer-time safty notice for all repairmen of ANY sort in our area. By meeting with our Towns Manager,I believe I can have him meet with our utility dept. and suggest that they keep their eyes opened for any gates that may be left open on their routes. I will personally hand out the remaining notices to other repairmen that are in our town. Thanks for prompting this type of awareness on your page. You get a HUGE thumbs-up from me !

    • Dottie1 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from MA, USA

    • Dottie1 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from MA, USA

      Thanks Tommy for stopping by and commenting and for the reminder it is time now to follow pool safety rules as we begin to close them for the summer.

    • Tommy B profile image

      Tommy B 

      10 years ago

      I love your article; swimming pool safety is number one priority.

      Keeping you swimming pool safe and clean is the key to never regretting pool ownership.

      Drowning is one of the major causes of accidents resulting in serious injury and death in children. Parents should not be fooled into thinking that their child is safe just because he/she knows how to swim. Accidents in the swimming pool can happen very suddenly without warning.

      Always have supervision when allowing children in or about a swimming. Most important make sure you and the children have fun when using the back yard swimming pool.

    • Dottie1 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from MA, USA

      Thanks Maylinda for stopping by and thanks too for your kind comment.

    • Maylinda Arons profile image

      Maylinda Arons 

      10 years ago

      Useful articles like this one make hubages the fine site it is! Good work :)

    • Dottie1 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from MA, USA

      Thank you premsingh for stopping by and appreciating this hub.

    • premsingh profile image


      10 years ago

      I appreciate your concerns for safety in and around swimming pools. Such accidents can be avoided if people take little care and follow the safety rules.

    • Dottie1 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from MA, USA

      Lilymag, thank you for your kind words. Somethings need to be repeated more than once.

    • Dottie1 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from MA, USA

      Thanks for stopping by Cgull8m and appreciating this hub

    • Lilymag profile image


      10 years ago from Upstate New York

      So sorry to hear about your cousin's child, that is absolutely horrible. I am glad that you had the strength to write this hub. More people need to realize the severity and the responsibility of pools.

    • cgull8m profile image


      10 years ago from North Carolina

      Great article and agree with the comments, very useful one.

    • Dottie1 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from MA, USA

      Thank you Ripplemaker for stopping by and commenting to help bring more awareness to this important subject.

      Btriutomo13 I am glad that story brought value to you. I didn't bring my children to public pools because they were too heavily chlorinated and too many kids to keep a good watch on my own. When they were young I would turn on a sprinkler in our backyard and make them an ice cream cone after. That was fun for them. I found lots of wisdom in learning that it truly is the small things that children remember most.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      10 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Yes, when it comes to safety, it certainly must be given priority...quite a thorough hub Dottie. I am sure these reminders will help many. :)

    • Dottie1 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from MA, USA

      Thank you MasonsMom and Kari M for your valued comments. I felt it important to bring awareness to this all important subject. It happened in my family (story above) and I don't want to hear about another one. Hope many stop by to refresh their memories.

    • Kari M profile image

      Kari M 

      10 years ago from San Diego

      I really appreciate your article. Even if people think they know how important pool and water safety is it never hurts to be continually reminded about something so very important. Awareness of the risks and attentiveness to your children is the most important it only takes seconds to lose site of a child and for tragedy to occur.

    • MasonsMom profile image


      10 years ago from U.S.A.

      This is valuable information for everyone--not just those who have kids. We all need to be on alert around a pool, whether public or private. I lifeguarded for 3 years when I was younger and so many people just don't pay attention or even seem to care until there's a scare. Thank you for sharing your story--I know it will help countless others think twice.


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