Make backyard pool safety a priority this summer, as we know, the amount of time that our children spend in pools, lakes, and oceans tends to increase during the warmer months. With so many of us having access to backyard pools, it’s important to remember that drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death for young children. We need to be taking the correct precautions as young children can drown silently in as little as 25 seconds, even in the shallow end or baby pool.
Most children drown because their parents turn their head for just a second or have no idea that their child is even near the pool. In nine out of ten drownings, parents or caregivers say they’d been supervising the child at the time. But kids – especially toddlers, who are at the highest risk are impulsive and fast. When a child drowns, they don’t yell or scream – they sink fast. Ironically, many drownings occur at parties with plenty of adults around because everybody assumes that someone else is watching the water.
First thing’s first, put some rules in place. Make backyard pool safety a priority.
Let kids know that an adult should always be supervising while they swim and if that’s not the case, stay away from the water. Always stay within arm’s reach. Supervision of children in and around the water must be close, constant and consistent.
When you’re at the pool, beach or lake, silence your phone and stow it out of reach in your bag so you’re not tempted to use it. Distracted supervision can be just as bad as not supervising at all. It is a good idea to designate a “water watcher” to ensure that supervision is constant and delegated. Take turns with another adult. This will help with distractions and ensure that the children are being watched at all times while giving you the opportunity to relax. If you are having a backyard party, hire a lifeguard.
Kids who are not yet experienced swimmers need constant touch supervision when they’re playing in or around a pool or at the beach. Someone should stay in the water with your child at all times, within touching distance, giving them your undivided attention.
If your child requires assistance with swimming, they should wear a life jacket. Puddle jumpers, water wings, noodles and flutter boards are not sufficient protection devices and should only be used for fun – not for safety.
It is always a good idea to ensure that the pool itself is not a risk. All backyard pools should have a fence so that young children’s curiosity doesn’t lead to any accidents. The fence should be self-closing and self-latching – you can even add an alarm to the gate or pool if someone should enter when not allowed. If you happen to have an above ground pool, remove the ladder when an adult is not present. You can never be too careful.
With small children, summer barbeques and lots of fun in the sun comes the tendency for pool toys, towels and other items to get left around the pool. Keep the area clear so that nobody trips and avoid bringing breakable items like glasses and bottles near the water. That’s a tricky clean-up should something break!
It is also important to ensure that there are appropriate supplies nearby in the event of an emergency. Is there something that you can throw to someone who is struggling? Is there a phone nearby? Do you have a first aid kit? Do you have a plan if an accident should happen? If you answered no to any of these questions, consider the reasons why this might be important and get on it! It’s always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.
The final tip is without a doubt, the single most important thing that you can do in protecting your child from drowning.
Sign your child up for swimming lessons. Start as early as possible with a parent and tot program and continue lessons as they grow older. There is no better way to protect your child than giving them the skills that they need to stay safe and save themselves in the event of an accident.
Whether your children are young, in their teens or you don’t have children at all, it is always important to take precautions and be prepared. Be sure to have backyard pool safety top of mind this summer. Having a backyard pool can be a lot of fun but with that comes a responsibility to keep your children and the community safe. Have a plan, establish rules, keep the area clean and ensure that your pool is fenced off. If you have children, start swimming lessons early. It’s not a matter of if they will encounter water but when – especially if you have a backyard pool. Swimming can be lots of fun but safety comes first!