On average, 19 children in the U.S. drown every year on the 4th of July
– USA Swimming Foundation
This is a tough subject and it’s hard to even write about without getting choked up. Even in trying to figure out where to begin, it is a sensitive matter that has torn the hearts out of and crushed families across the country. I don’t know. Today is July 4th, and I happened to see the statistic on July 4th drownings in the US (at top of this post) shortly following watching my Grandchildren play in my pool, and I just wanted to put something together on this. I mean, for as much fun as a backyard swimming pool can be, they can be a dangerous thing without the proper safety measures in place.
Childhood drownings on the rise?
On June sixth of this year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has reported that fatal child drownings are on the rise and that drowning remains the leading cause of unintentional death for children ages one to four. I have spent the majority of my life in the swimming pool industry and reports such as these are difficult, but to hear the problem is worsening is absolutely horrific.
^^^ Had you seen this Super Dad video that went viral last week?
My grandchildren are in this age group, and I can’t imagine living through the pain of such loss. I have, for a period of time, in my (I don’t want to even say how long) 30+ year pool industry career held a position with a swimming pool safety cover manufacturer, so I am no stranger to swimming pool safety measures. You really need to look at this as a military defense strategy. If an army was to rely solely upon its front line, if breached, your entire infrastructure is left without protection. We need to establish fortifications behind the front line. We need layers of protection.
STEP #1: Train Your Little Soldier
I know there are many that want to fault lack of adult supervision as the one and only cause, and I don’t disagree that this is a factor but consider a lack of swim ability to be right up there at the top as well. Yes, there are swimming lessons available for children in this age group, and yes, they are readily available and extremely affordable. Here’s the thing, whether the parents are on that child like a hawk or not, if the kid knows how to swim, they have a better chance of surviving a fall into a pool.
Where can I find lessons near me?
ISR Self-Rescue instruction has programs for infants as young as six months of age that teach children the skill of rolling onto their backs to float, rest and breathe until help arrives. According to USA Swimming Foundation, swimming lessons reduce the likelihood of childhood drowning by 88%. You can find an ISR instructor near you at Infant Swimming Resources You can find contact information for instructors that offer traditional swimming lessons near you at Make a Splash
drowning deaths are mostly due to children falling into a pool or being left alone in the bathtub – National Safety Council
STEP #2: Early Warning System
It makes sense that if we are trying to prevent our child from falling into the pool that we start inside our homes, especially if we have a door or a window that opens into the pool area. Children do sometimes slip out the door and wander off into the yard, it shouldn’t happen, but it does. A Sliding Glass Door Alarm is an affordable early warning system that will sound a high decibel alarm alerting you immediately if a window or door is opened. They are inexpensive, typically not hardwired, and really simple to install.
STEP #3: Field Fortifications
One of the things that I have done in my career that I am most proud of was to design the line of removable safety fencing for one of that safety cover manufacturer that I was with. Everything from sourcing material to working with independent laboratories in testing my product for bend strength prior to going to market. It even has a patented locking design so that the posts could not be easily removed by older children. I’m proud of it because I ran R&D on a product designed specifically to save children’s lives. If your child should find a means to breach your door alarm, safety fencing should be your next level of defense. These unclimbable sections of black mesh barriers are marketed as a DIY item but can take a little skill to install to be taut as intended. It is totally worth the additional expense to hire a swimming pool professional for a correct install and greater peace of mind, but if you are handy you can install it yourself. Remember, even though you have taught your child to swim, we still want to prevent them from getting to the pool when unsupervised.
The one pictured below is not mine, just an example of safety fencing
STEP #4: Permanent Fortifications
If your little one should make it past both the door alarm and the safety fencing, a swimming pool safety cover provides more of a permanent defense when correctly installed. These “aquatic forcefields” are mounted to the deck surrounding the pool with spring-loaded anchoring systems that, although often used as a winter cover, was designed to prevent unsupervised entry to swimming pools and add another layer in the prevention of drowning. To be called a “Safety Cover” the product must meet ASTM F1346-91standard which states that, among other things, the cover must be able to hold a minimum of 485 pounds per five square feet. These barriers are also often marketed as a DIY item but, as with the fencing above, are worth the added expense of professional installation.
STEP #5: The Last Defense
If your little soldier should find a way to breach each of the layers of protection listed above and make it to the water, a swimming pool alarm will alert you of unauthorized entry. Most come with a remote receiver for in-home use allowing a high decibel alarm both inside and outside the house. Many are designed to detect entry of children as young as twelve months and can differentiate between entry and environmental factors such as wind or rain. If they do get past everything we have spoken about so far, a pool alarm will at least notify you that they have fallen into the pool.
OTHER IMPORTANT RESOURCES
Suction entrapment is an extremely serious issue, however, I feel a discussion on the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act, deserves its own post. You can, in the interim, check out some frequently asked questions (FAQ) on this federal pool code: VGB2008 P&SSA
Last week we spoke of how cloudy water could also contribute to drowning, and offered tips for getting rid of the cloudiness and keeping the water clear in How to Clear Cloudy Pool Water Fast
Take the Pool Safely Pledge & download your FREE Pool Safely Toolkit
Additional swimming pool safety measures can be found in the National Drowning Prevention Alliance’s Water Safety Steps
Products shown above are shown to provide an example only. Should you have additional questions about swimming pool safety, you are welcome to post your questions in the comments below, contact any of the organizations listed above and below, and/or consult your local swimming pool professional.
For More Information, Click the Logo below:
Water Safety – National Safety Council
Make A Splash – USA Swimming Foundation