Swimming Pool Safety | How to Prevent Shocks & Drownings
Summer is all about fun in the sun. But there tends to be a dark cloud that hangs over summer’s favorite past time: swimming. Residential swimming pool safety has become particularly important as the rate of unintentional drownings, especially among young children, startles the public each year. This summer, teach your family about how water safety protects you while you play.
If you’re a parent, practicing water safety is especially vital. Children between the ages of 1 and 5 are the most at risk for drowning. It’s also shown that adult supervision isn’t enough to keep all children safe from water-related accidents and fatalities. Included in this blog are some general water safety guidelines as well as preventative measures to block access to a pool or spa on a residential property.
Swimming Pool Safety
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends “layers of protection” because “nothing is foolproof when it comes to protecting children from drowning in a pool.” In contrast with adults, who mainly drown in natural waters, children are more likely to drown in a residential swimming pool.
Get the Facts:
- From 2005-2014, there was an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the United States — about ten deaths per day.
- About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger.
- For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.
- More than 50% of drowning victims treated in emergency departments (EDs) require hospitalization or transfer for further care (compared with a hospitalization rate of about 6% for all unintentional injuries).
- These nonfatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage that may result in long-term disabilities such as memory problems, learning disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functioning (e.g., permanent vegetative state).
General Residential Pool Safety Recommendations:
Supervise – There should always be a responsible adult present when children are in the pool. If the child is a non-swimmer, the adult should be close enough to reach the child at all times, known as “touch supervision.”
Take Swim Lessons – Supervision has proven to not be enough on its own. The sooner a child can begin with water competency skills, the safer. Knowing how to protect yourself from drowning is the best defense.
Learn CPR – Courses are readily available, and it can be a fun family activity to learn together. Emphasize how to avoid situations where someone would need emergency CPR.
Build a Fence – Access to a residential pool or spa should be difficult for a child. The fence should be at least 4 feet tall and go around the entire perimeter of the pool. It needs to be self-closing with a latch that’s out of reach for a child. Read CPSC’s Safety Barrier Guidelines for Pools (PDF) to learn more about constructing pool barriers.
Safety Alarms – Drowning can happen in a short time span and without any audible signs of distress. Several reports are made of a child drowning when adults were home. Put an alarm on the outdoor pool gate or even use a floating pool alarm. A safety alarm is an additional life-saving alert.
Toys – Remove toys in order to avoid any accidents related to kids trying to retrieve a toy from the water. Additionally, do not use air-filled or foam toys as safety devices. There is no substitute for life-jackets.
Emergency Preparation – Be sure that everyone is aware of what to do in the case of an accident. All children and adults should know to call 9-1-1, and have a phone and plan in place to do so.
Weather – Always go swimming in appropriate weather. Swimming is an activity best enjoyed with sunshine.
Electrical Safety Around Pools & Spas
Water and electricity don’t mix. Wet skin and surfaces greatly increase the chance of electrical shocks and electrocution (death by an electrical shock).
Common sources of electricity around pools and spas:
- Underwater lights
- Electric pool equipment (pumps, filters, vacuum, etc.)
- Extension and power cords
- Electrical outlets or switches
- Radios, stereos, TVs and other electrical products
- Overhead Power Lines
Prevent shocks and electrocutions by:
- Knowing where electrical power switches and circuit breakers are located, and how to turn them off. Label all of your circuit breaker switches if you haven’t done so already.
- Do NOT swim before or during lightning or thunderstorms.
- Have a qualified electrician conduct an annual electrical inspection before the start of the swimming season. Your electrician will be able to inspect and upgrade essential electrical components according to all local codes and the National Electrical Code (NEC).
- As outlined in the NEC, keep all electrical wires, outlets, and junction boxes at least 5 feet away from any water source.
- Follow NEC requirements for ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs):
- on underwater lighting circuits operating at 120-volts (CPSC recommends GFCIs for circuits that are 15 volts or greater);
- on pumps and electrical equipment used with pools, spas and hot tubs, including heaters close to the pool and operated on 240 volt circuits;
- on electrical circuits around pools, spas, and hot tubs;
- on all outdoor receptacles and receptacles within 20 feet of the water’s edge to protect people from injury.
- Test all GFCI outlets EVERY MONTH (wear shoes while testing):
- Push RESET button
- Plug in light or similar device (light should be ON)
- Press TEST button (light should turn OFF)
- Push RESET button again (light should turn ON)
- If GFCI is not working properly, call a qualified electrician
- If possible, use battery-operated devices instead of cord-connected ones.
- Print and laminate an emergency plan and CPR instructions in clear view of those using the pool.
- Make sure overhead power lines and junction boxes are in safe positions whenever installing a new pool, hot tub, or spa.
If you think you are being shocked, get out of the water as soon as possible and move away from the source of the shock. Exit the pool without using a metal ladder, as this may increase the effect of the shock.
- Learn how to treat someone in the water who is experiencing an electric shock here.
- Learn more about child electrical safety here.
- Learn more about backyard electrical safety here.
Summer is Water Safety Season
Water Safety USA is made up of many of our most respected and longstanding national nonprofit and governmental organizations. Its members include the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Red Cross, the USA Swimming Foundation, Safe Kids Worldwide, the Boy Scouts of America and the U.S. Coast Guard, among others. They currently lead the “U.S. in water safety and drowning prevention.”
They’ve got some great tips for staying safe this summer, including the most essential: designating a Water Watcher. The single most important precaution against drowning is an alert and prepared swimming pool supervisor—an adult, trusted babysitter or older sibling.
Qualities of an appropriate Water Watcher:
- Is at least 16 years of age (adults preferred)
- Has the skills, knowledge, and ability to recognize and rescue someone in distress or can immediately alert someone nearby who has that capability
- Knows CPR or can immediately alert someone nearby with that skill
- Has a working phone to be able to dial 9-1-1
- Has a floating and/or reaching object that can be used in a rescue
- Is alert and not under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Source: Water Safety USA
Have a happy and safe summer! Read these homeowner tips to keep your house cool this summer.
Give us a call today at 1-877-803-0511 or schedule an appointment online (available 24/7).