With summer upon us, it’s natural in South Florida to be thinking about fun in the sun. The children are out of school, and the backyard pool becomes the family hangout with barbeques and casual get-togethers, as well as the primary activity for the kids and their friends.
Having a backyard pool brings with it the responsibility to ensure that everyone using it is safe. According to the Center for Disease control and Prevention (CDC), there was an average of 3,533 fatal unintentional drownings each year from 2005 to 2009 … that’s about 10 deaths per day, though most occur during the summer season between Memorial Day and Labor Day. About one in five of these drownings are children age 14 or younger … almost 707 children or 20% – two each day of each year.
- Most of these children aged 1 to 4 drown in home swimming pools, making it 14 times more likely for these children to drown than to die in a motor vehicle accident .
- The highest drowning rates are children under 5 – and adolescents aged 15 to 24!
- Of all preschoolers who drown, 70% are in the care of one or both parents at the time. 75% are missing for only five minutes or less, with 86% found after 10 minutes. 92% of those who survive are found and rescued within two minutes of submersion.
Wow! These are some sobering statistics that can dampen anyone’s summer enthusiasm. Yet, there’s a lot you can do to ensure no one near or in your backyard pool becomes a statistic.
Causes & Prevention
- Falling into the pool– Use a four-sided, at least four-foot high fence or total enclosure around the pool area, putting an alarm on the gate to alert you if someone opens it … keep gates locked when pool is not in use. This helps to reduce a child’s risk of drowning by 83%, compared to property line fencing. No one, including adults, should be allowed to run or be too playful near the edge of the pool.
Use a solid pool cover whenever the pool is not in use. Also, clear the pool and pool area of all toys when not in use – they attract children to the pool.
- Lack of swimming ability – All such children should be wearing a Coast Guard approved safety vest … no exceptions. Inflatable toys and rafts do not save lives. Ensure all of your own children can swim or they cannot go in the pool, even adults or under five.
- No rules for swimmers and pool owners – Writing out sets of rules for both the swimmers (i.e. no running, pushing, jumping, etc.) and yourself – the pool owner – (i.e. if ever a child – yours or others – is missing, always first and foremost check the bottom of your pool; ensure the pool enclosures are up to government safety codes, pool chemicals are safely locked away and children are not allowed around when you are using them, etc.) helps keep everyone safe. Children should be required to follow the rules or they don’t go near the pool; you obey your own rules or close the pool. Everyone becomes aware of and puts safety first.
- Diving into too shallow or too deep of water – Numbers all around and on the side of the pool should indicate water depth. Inexperienced and non-swimmers should be kept in the shallow end, and no one should ever dive in or near the shallow end. Diving should only be done off a diving board or deep end, ensuring no one is under or too near where the diving is done.
- Trying fancy dives seen on television or dangerous acts – Such dives are generally beyond the skill level of the person, the pool isn’t deep enough, or the diving board is not Olympic regulation, causing injuries. Plus, such dives should only be attempted under the supervision of an experienced instructor. Additionally, doing silly dives can easily injure the head and/or neck.
- Messing with drains or other underwater pool devices – Ensure that all such devices have safety covers on them to ensure curious swimmers cannot get their limbs or long hair caught in them.
- Unruly children in or near the pool – No pushing or jumping on others outside or inside the pool. No pulling others under the water or diving off someone’s shoulders. Not too many people in the pool at once … someone can accidentally get pushed under water and drown. It also makes it impossible to supervise the swimmers.
- No adult supervision for inexperienced or non-swimmers – These and any new swimmer, who needs to prove their skill level, should not be in your pool without an experienced swimmer adult supervising. This also applies to all children age 14 or under, regardless of their swimming ability. The adult actively supervises, just like a lifeguard – no reading books, talking to a friend or on the phone, or tanning near the pool – and be out of the pool with alert eyes watching every person in the pool. Unlike the movies, people drowning don’t yell for help or splash around. Generally, they quietly just slip underwater within seconds. That’s why drowning is called the “silent killer”.
Additionally, children should use the buddy system, even the experienced swimmers – never allow individual swimming by children without supervision. When having family or friend get-togethers involving children, hire a neighborhood teen who is an experienced swimmer to lifeguard the children near or in the pool. At others’ get-togethers with swimming pools, never assume anyone but YOU are watching your children – not even your spouse.
- Gets exhausted from play and goes under – For children age 14 or under, they should be required to get out of the pool and rest in the shade quietly playing or chatting for every hour of play in the pool. Even older teens should do this.
- Alcohol use – For teens and adults, alcohol is involved in up to 70% of deaths associated with water activities. Alcohol influences balance, coordination and judgment. Also, its effects are heightened by sun exposure and heat. When having get-togethers or parties with alcohol, keep them outside the pool enclosure and keep the enclosure gate locked.
- Seizure disorders – Always provide swimmers with such issues with one-on-one supervision by an experienced swimmer, as well as the adult supervisor out of the pool. They also should wear safety vests.
- No CPR training – Because seconds count in a drowning rescue, everyone in your family age 15 and older should be Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certified by the Red Cross.
With a little safety prevention, the likelihood of anyone in your backyard pool becoming a drowning statistic becomes much less likely. Have a safe and enjoyable South Florida summer in your backyard pool.
As always, contact South Florida Home Inspection Associates for all of your home inspection needs!