A swimming pool is a great place for kids to cool off during the hot summer months – but without proper safety precautions, swimming can pose serious risk to children. Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death for children ages 1 to 4 in the United States. Whether you have a backyard pool or hot tub, or take your child to a public or friend's pool for a party, keep these three essential rules in mind:
1. Test and teach
How well does your child swim? Pool safety starts before your child ever gets into the water and understanding your child's skill level can help you make smart decisions about water safety. You can learn more about your child's swimming ability by going to your local YMCA to receive a FREE swim assessment. If your child is not a strong swimmer, enroll him or her in swim classes. The YMCA offers swimming lessons for children six months and up.
Even children that pass a swim assessment can benefit from additional swim instruction. Learning pool safety rules and how to be a strong swimmer is a great defense against drowning.
2. Watch and guard
Active supervision around a pool is required, not just recommended. Never leave a child alone in or around open water. Any time children are in the pool, designate an adult to be the Water Watcher. This dedicated observer must commit to actively supervising children in the water at all times; not texting, reading, socializing, drinking, etc.
Touch supervision is essential for young children and those who can't swim. A life jacket may be a good idea for those who can't swim, as well. Plus, it's a good idea to switch out Water Watchers from time to time to make sure children stay safe in the pool.
Safety tip: If you see a child struggling in the water at a pool or lake, NEVER jump in to rescue. More often than not, the panicking victim will pull the would-be rescuer down with them. Instead, throw out a flotation device or use a pole or noodle to reach the drowning person.
3. Have the right equipment
Protecting your family around the pool means more than just keeping an eye on swimming kids. It is also important to make sure the pool is a safe place when no one is around and the pool is not in use. Drowning incidents can happen year-round and can be even more dangerous during the winter months when pools are not top of mind. Layers of protection, like a non-climbable fence with a self-locking gate, can keep children who wander off from falling into the pool. Safety covers are also a good idea.
- Our experts recommend you skip the standard arm floaties and instead use a U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD) for all children who do not know how to swim, and remember to put them back on if they are taken off for any reason.
- Fences should be slatted and at least four feet tall. Even young kids can climb a chain-link fence. Latching gates should be self-closing and close with latches out of reach of tiny hands.
- Alarms can be installed on doors and gates leading to the pool and underwater pool alarms can warn you if something enters the pool.
- Always keep rescue equipment, like pool noodles, safety rings, rope and a first aid kit, poolside. Plus, always keep access to a phone nearby.
- Cover pools and hot tubs when not in use. Use rigid covers that don't collect standing water.
- Remove ladders from above ground pools when not in use and store them out of reach.
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