Pool Safety 101
How to keep kids and adults safe at your next pool party.
You’ve made the decision to put a pool in your backyard, or maybe you’re getting a lot more use out of the one you already have. Whatever the case may be, safety is one of the most important considerations when you’ve got a pool. Drowning can happen in only two inches of water, so having your safety plan sorted is key to enjoying your pool, all summer long.
Be a good owner
Investing in a pool is serious business, and maintaining the space is critical. While the types of pools may vary (in-ground or above ground), there are essential elements to consider. Around the pool, this means fencing at least 1.2 metres high, with no more than a 10-centimetre gap between vertical boards — be sure to check with your municipality to confirm local regulations. Fencing should have a gate with a childproof latch, and all furniture or planters should be far away from the fence to dissuade people from climbing over the fencing.
Schedule in a regular check of your pool, reviewing the condition of the pool lining, tiles, and filters. Loose or broken tiles may snag swimsuits or hair, while filters can create dangerous suction. Check your pool deck for cracked paving or a splinter prone deck. Fix any worrisome spots before officially opening the pool for the season.
Safe storage of pool chemicals is important, as they can be toxic. Use a well-ventilated storage shed that can be locked. Noodles, floats, and other water toys should be stored at the end of a pool session, as leaving them out may be too tempting for a child to play with. When closing down the pool, use a strong cover without any rips or holes. This can be the first line of defence against an unintentional drowning. If you have a kiddie pool in your backyard, make sure to empty it after every use, and overturn it in a secure spot. This will prevent unsupervised playtime and unintentional drowning.
Your pool, your rules
Before that first dip, all swimmers must know the rules for your pool. Residential pools are typically not deep enough for diving, so advise swimmers to jump in feet first. Walking, not running, is the preferred gait around the pool deck, while alcohol, drugs, and glass should never be invited to a pool party.
If you’re having a celebration around the pool, keep tabs on the number of people invited. A crowded pool area can make it difficult to supervise swimmers, especially if you’re trying to play host. If the party starts to feel unwieldy, think about downsizing your guest list, or hiring a local lifeguard.
When thinking about pool rules, consider the weather as well. The first sign of a storm is a good time to pull swimmers out, while the fierce summer sun may mean mandatory sunscreen before swimming.
Swimming skills required
While everyone loves to cool off on a hot summer’s day, not everyone has the same swimming skills. When inviting people over to swim, verify that everyone can swim. Assuming can lead to disastrous results, especially if an adult that doesn’t feel comfortable is left to supervise small children.
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Have Transport Canada-approved life jackets available for swimmers of all ages, but remember — a life jacket is no substitute for adult supervision. As for water wings, floaties, or pool noodles? Those aren’t designed for lifesaving, just play. When in doubt, use a life jacket.
Swimming lessons can be a family affair for those with pools. Register in lessons to learn proper technique and basic survival skills in the water. For those old enough, sign up for a lifeguard course through the Red Cross. Whether in the backyard or at a summer job, these are valuable skills to have.
Supervision is key
Keeping an eye on swimmers is essential. Drowning can be referred to as the “silent killer,” with troubled swimmers barely making a sound. Struggling swimmers, with their faces barely above water, are typically vertical in the pool with little to no kick. They may even not be able to respond if you ask them, “Are you okay?” the Red Cross reminds.
If you are the designated supervisor, it is important to stay off your phone, observing all swimmers in the pool. While it is recommended that pool owners know CPR and lifesaving techniques, posting the steps nearby with the home address and phone number clearly written, can be critical reminders in case of emergency. Do keep a phone nearby, in case you need to call an ambulance.
Occasionally, swimmers may breathe in small amounts of water that may not necessitate immediate urgent care. However, secondary drowning, or dry drowning, is always a possibility. Inhalation of water may result in irritation and swelling in the lungs presenting as fatigue, difficulty breathing, irritability, pain, shortness of breath, persistent cough, or fever. Note that these symptoms may take one to 72 hours to develop, so if a swimmer is suspected of inhaling water, a visit to the emergency room may be required.
Manage the risk, enjoy the summer
Pools may pose a risk, but don’t have to be dangerous. When you make the decision to install a pool, or buy a property that comes with a pool, it may feel overwhelming. However, proper planning, training, and supervision can allow for a safe summer with long, relaxing hours spent by the pool!