Keeping Your Family Safe Around The Pool This Summer
May has brought with it sunshine, cookouts, and National Water Safety Month. In many areas of the country, May is a prime month for opening a pool. And while we all know that swimming can be fun for the whole family and an excellent form of exercise, owning a pool does come with some serious safety regulations. It is important to make sure your pool is not only up to code, but is the safest possible environment that you can make it. Most pool safety guidelines focus around two main ideas: keeping children away from the pool unless they are under the direct supervision of an adult; and, notifying adults if a child should get into the pool unsupervised.
To help you navigate the waters, we have gathered the essential information for pool safety guidelines as set forth by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
A major requirement for pools is that they have a barrier to prevent a child from entering the pool area. Barriers are not 100% child proof, but they do provide the first line of defense. A barrier should be located so that no permanent structure, equipment or similar object can be used to climb the barrier and get into the swimming area. A four sided fence is recommended, but it is also acceptable to have three sides of the pool surrounded by the fence and one side be a wall of a building. In most cases, the top of the pool barrier should be at least 48 inches above the grade, but be sure to check with your state, county, or municipality in your area because the requirements can vary. For example, some municipalities require barriers to be 60 inches in height. When in doubt, taller is usually better; you can never be too careful when it comes to the safety of your family and community.
If you choose a solid barrier like a brick or stone wall, no indents or protrusions other than normal construction can be prevalent to prevent the child from climbing the barrier.
On the other hand, if you choose to construct a fence, some additional requirements must be met.
If you have a fence with both horizontal and vertical boards:
- If the distance between the top side of the horizontal board is less than 45 inches it needs to be on the inside of the fence.
- If it is higher than 45 inches it is allowed to be on the outside.
- If the fence has any decorative cutouts the spacing should not exceed 1 ¾ inches.
- Spacing between vertical slats should not exceed 4 inches.
If solid fences aren’t your style, chain link fences are another viable option for a barrier. Be careful when purchasing the fence, however, because in most cases the standard 2″ mesh chain link fabric won’t work…it can be climbed too easily. When installing a pool fence, most codes require a mesh no larger than 1 1/4″. Some municipalities also allow the use of privacy slats or screening to reduce the size of the openings in a standard fabric.
It is a possibility to have one side of your house as a barrier. If you choose that option make sure that any door from the house into the pool area has an alarm. Here are some guidelines set forth by the UL 2017 General-Purpose Signaling Devices and Systems, Section 77:
- Sound lasting for 30 seconds or more within 7 seconds after the door is opened
- The alarm needs to be loud: at least 85 decibels when measured 10 feet away from the alarm mechanism
- The alarm sound should be distinct from other alarm sounds in the house
- Have an automatic reset feature to temporarily deactivate the alarm for up to 15 seconds to allow adults to pass without setting off the alarm
- The deactivation switch can be a touchpad or manual switch and should be located at least 54 inches above the threshold and out of reach of children.
Doors and Gates
The door of your home also needs to have a self-closing or self-latching device or locks beyond the reach of children to prevent them from opening the door and making their way to the pool. Some of the same rules apply to gates used to get into a pool area. Pedestrian gates, also known as walk through gates, need to open out from the pool. They also need to be self-closing or self-latching. Vehicle entrance gates also need to be self-closing or self-latching.
Above Ground Pools
Above ground pools have a few different requirements from in ground pools. There are two ways to prevent children from climbing into an above ground pool. Steps or a ladder that are designed to be locked or secured can be removed to prevent access. Or the steps/ ladder can be surrounded by a barrier. Either option is safe. If you have a fence on top of the pool the maximum clearance between the top of the pool and the bottom of the barrier should not exceed 4 inches.
To prevent a child from getting underneath of a pool barrier make sure:
- The maximum clearance at the bottom does not exceed 4 inches.
- If your fence is on a non-solid surface such as grass, the fence bottom should not be higher than 2 inches.
Another way to increase pool safety is to install a cover. A cover should be able to hold a weight of 485 pounds (2 adults and 1 child) for rescue purposes. Some suggest installing a pool alarm that can alert you if your child has already fallen into the pool. The sad fact is that within 30 seconds in the water you can lose a child. But a cover can help prevent the child from ever hitting the water. Katchakid is a company based in Texas that makes a safety net to catch your child and prevent them from entering the water and has excellent reviews.
- Teach children water safety and swimming skills as early as possible
- Appoint a designated watcher to monitor children during social gatherings at or near pools.
- Keep a first aid kit poolside
- Don’t use flotation devices as a substitute for supervision
- Don’t leave objects such as toys that might attract a child in the pool and pool area
- Don’t rely on swimming lessons, life preservers or other equipment to make a child “water”
The Best Protection: Supervision
Fencing and pool covers can help to keep your family safe but it is crucial to remember never to leave children unsupervised around your pool. Summer is a great time to have a pool, just be sure yours is up to code and safety regulations before taking that first dive into the water. Once you have checked your pool twice you can sit back, relax in your poolside chairs, and have a great summer season.