Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths to children ages 14 and under. A temporary lapse in supervision is a common factor in most drownings and near-drownings. Child drownings can happen in a matter of seconds—in the time it takes to answer the phone. There is often no splashing to warn of trouble. Children can drown in small quantities of water and are at risk in their own homes from wading pools, bathtubs, buckets, diaper pails, and toilets as well as swimming pools, spas, and hot tubs. Pool and spa owners can take practical steps to make their pool and spa less dangerous and reduce their potential liability.
All doors which give access to a swimming pool should be equipped with an audible alarm which sounds when the door and/or screen are opened. The alarm should have an automatic reset feature. The alarm can be equipped with manual means, such as touchpads or switches, to temporarily deactivate the alarm for a single opening of the door from either direction. This arrangement allows adults to pass through without setting off the alarm. Such deactivation should last for no more than 15 seconds. The deactivation touchpads or switches should be located at least 54 inches above the threshold of the door.
A non-climbable, five-foot fence that separates the pool/spa from the residence should be installed. Openings should be no more than four inches wide so children cannot squeeze through the spaces. A fence or barrier completely surrounding the pool can prevent many drowning accidents. The area adjacent to the outside of the fence must be free of objects such as chairs, tables, and playground equipment that children could use to climb over the fence.
Other safety measures can include:
- Self-closing and self-latching gates and doors leading to the pool should have latches above a child’s reach. Gates should open outward.
- Pool safety covers can be installed. Power operated covers are the safest and easiest to use.
- A telephone can be installed near the pool. Emergency numbers as well as the address of the property should be posted near the phone so that it is visible to callers.
- Constant supervision of swimmers of all ages is the most effective means of drowning prevention.