As the weather heats up and the school year winds down, many of us are busting out the bathing suits and sunscreen. But before you hit the deep end (feet first, please), take a few minutes to make sure your backyard pool is safe, and to refresh your memory on these lifesaving poolside safety measures.

Secure your pool perimeter with a safety barrier

A staggering 69% of all drowning deaths in young children happen when either they fell or snuck into the pool. That’s why many states and jurisdictions require above- and in-ground pools to be enclosed by a fence with a self-closing or self-latching gate. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends pool owners follow these safety barrier guidelines for residential pools. Here are some of the most important features to remember:

  • Surround the pool with fencing on all four sides.
  • Fences should be 4 feet tall or higher.
  • Fences should not have hand or footholds that make it possible to climb.
  • Fences should not have vertical parts that exceed four inches from one another (so your child can’t squeeze through an opening in the gate).
  • Fence clearance should be no more than 4 inches above pavement or 2 inches if the fence is on grass or gravel.
  • Make sure your fence has a self-closing door or self-latching lock that can’t be reached by small children.
  • Install door alarms on all house doors leading to the pool area.

Never swim alone and always supervise children

Children must never be left alone in or near a pool or spa, period. Designate a responsible adult as a “water watcher” who can keep an active eye on kids as they swim or play in and around swimming pools.

Practice responsible water safety

In addition to placing barriers around swimming pools, make sure that you and other swimmers are practicing good water safety behaviors. That means:

  • Always swim with a buddy or designated “water watcher” in place. 
  • Only enter a pool head first when in deeper, safe diving areas.
  • Steer clear of drains and areas with suction.
  • Never swim under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
  • Don’t run around or near a pool — you could slip and fall causing serious injury.
  • If using inflatable jackets for kids (i.e. floaties), know that they are not a substitute for either an approved life jacket nor adult supervision. Also beware: floaties give children who can’t swim a false and potentially dangerous sense of security around water.
  • Keep life-saving rescue equipment — like a life preserver — near the pool.
  • Make sure you have a working telephone nearby in the event of an emergency.
  • Enroll children in water safety courses (like swimming lessons), and CPR/First Aid for teenagers and adults.
  • Keep pools clean and clear of algae or other debris that could decrease visibility.


Know what to do in an emergency

In the event of any emergency situation, it’s important to stay calm and act quickly:

  • If you have a pool, and a child in your care has gone missing, always check the pool first.
  • Look for signs of trouble — and be aware that when a child falls into a pool, they may not be able to shout for help.
  • If alone, give 2 minutes of care (first aid, rescue breathing and/or CPR), then call emergency medical services.
  • If not alone, have someone call emergency medical services while you administer first aid, rescue breathing, and/or CPR.

Pools can be a source of great fun, but there’s a reason insurers call them an “attractive nuisance.” Like the name suggests, an attractive nuisance is something on your property that has entertainment value but also a potential liability. That’s why, being safer could also mean a reduced rate. More importantly, though, being thoughtful about pool safety can help prevent or reduce the likelihood of poolside injuries and accidents this summer. So have fun, but be safe out there!

Safe and smart | Home safety

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about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.