Blog: Heading to the Pool? Keep Safe with These Rules!
Water fun is a part of summer for Maritime families, and more families have invested in home swimming pools, kiddie pools and hot tubs than ever before! However, owning one of these comes with the responsibility of ensuring its safe use, to protect the children in your home as well as in your neighbourhood.
Did you know? While ALL children are at risk for drowning, young children under five years old are at an increased risk because:
- They are attracted to water but cannot understand the danger.
- They can walk but they can’t swim.
- They lack balance and co-ordination and are at increased risk of falling into water.
- Their lungs are smaller than adults and fill quickly with water.
- They can drown in as little as 2.5 centimeters (one inch) of water.
Child Safety Link (CSL) would like to remind parents and caregivers of a few simple pool rules that you can follow to keep you and your kids safe while enjoying pool time this summer:
Pool Rule # 1: Proper fencing.
Tragically, we know that about 70% of home pool drownings happen when it’s not swim time, when children are playing or walking near a home pool and are able to access to it. After all, children are very attracted to water and will often make a run for the pool when they have any opportunity!
If you own a pool, making sure that kids can’t access the pool when they aren’t supposed to is THE most important thing you need to consider and plan for.
If you can’t empty the pool when you are not using it (i.e. a kiddie pool), you should have a four-sided fence around it with a self-locking, self-closing gate to keep your children—and the kids in the neighbourhood–safe. Check with your municipality to see what the pool fencing by-laws are for your community. According to the Canadian Red Cross, most pool drownings primarily involve young children who gain access to a pool without a self-closing and self-latching gate.
There are other measures you can take as well as the fence, for adding more layers of protection (i.e. for above-ground pools, removing the ladder or stairs during non-swim times, or installing door alarms and extra locks in the home). Kids can be crafty, and can often figure out how to get around safeguards if given enough time and opportunity. Being aware of any potential gaps in pool security is key, and the more layers of protection the better.
Pool Rule #2: All EYES on deck.
Studies have shown that half of Canadian parents believe that they will be able to hear just by listening if someone is in distress in the water. This is a dangerous myth, because drowning is most often silent, and it only takes 15-20 seconds for it to happen.
When you are in or around the pool with children, active, continuous supervision is KEY. Small children should always be in within arm’s reach and have your undivided attention.
We know it’s hard to get everything done without a little multitasking, but pool time is the time to avoid distractions of ANY kind. If children are near water, then they should be the only thing on your mind. If you have to take a phone call, assign another responsible adult to supervise the children in the pool while you take the call. If no one else is with you and you have to answer the front door, the children must come with you.
Be very careful when there is a group of people: this is a classic scenario for a drowning, when everyone thinks someone else is watching the kids, leading to a dangerous lapse in supervision. So if there is a group, designate a Water Watcher for a certain amount of time (i.e. 15 minutes): a responsible adult who will not take his or her eyes off of the kids in the pool, even for a second.
Pool Rule #3: Life jackets save lives.
Life jackets or personal flotation devices (pfds) must be worn by all lesser-skilled or non-swimmers in your pool. It’s also really important that kids wear life jackets designed for their age and weight and they need to fit snugly with all the zippers and buckles done up. Swimming aids like inflatables, water rings and noodles are fun toys for kids, but they should never be used in place of a Transport Canada – approved life jacket or PFD. Also: lifejackets are never a substitute for proper supervision. Kids need to be watched every second they are in the water, even with a life jacket on, even with a lifeguard present.
Pool Rule # 4: Take the time to learn CPR.
We all know that it’s a proven thing: CPR saves lives. If you own a home swimming pool, learning CPR should be on the top of your priority list. It will give you tremendous peace of mind – and the more peace of mind you have as a parent, the better.
Local hospitals, fire departments and recreation departments offer CPR training – learn CPR and have your children learn CPR, too. It’s a skill that will serve you all for a lifetime, and it may save a life.
Pool Rule #5: Empty out kiddie pools after use.
Kiddie pools can be deceptively dangerous. That’s because a baby or small child can drown in only a few centimeters of water if it is enough to cover their mouth or nose and they don’t have the physical ability to wiggle themselves upright.
While splashing around in a kiddie pool, small kids should always be within arm’s reach of a responsible, supervising adult, and wear a life jacket/vest. Most importantly, the pool should be emptied as soon as the kids are done, and refilled with the hose when they want to go back in.
Pool Rule # 6: Supervision for all – no matter the skill level.
In Atlantic Canada, after the 0-4 age groups, the next age group most likely to drown are kids between the ages of 10 and 14.
This statistic certainly shows that older kids still need close supervision around water. The issue is that older kids often overestimate their abilities, underestimate things like currents, waves and distances (if in open water) and do more risky things to impress their peers. It’s also really important to discuss pool rules with older kids, such as no diving if the pool is not deep enough.
Pool Rule # 7: Always read the directions on swimming pool and hot tub chemicals.
This summer, calls to the IWK Regional Poison Centre about exposure to pool chemicals more than doubled, because more people put pools in their yards and so there are many first time users.
Pool chemicals can be very tricky. Some common pool chemicals, specifically those with chlorine, can be six times more toxic than household bleach. If not handled correctly, chlorine products can give off a toxic gas which can leave people gasping for air. Often people become dangerously exposed to concentrated levels of chlorine when they open containers too close to their face.
Therefore, it’s really important to read the directions on how to use these products. It’s also key to store them properly, in a cool, dry place away from heat sources, other chemicals, fertilizers or cleaners. And as always with toxic household products, pool chemicals must always be kept out of reach of children in a high or locked cupboard or container.
If someone is exposed to pool chemicals, they should immediately move to fresh air, and flush their skin and eyes with lots of water. Call the IWK Regional Poison Centre anytime at 1-800-565-8161 (NS and PEI) for advice from a trained poison specialist. Call 911 immediately if there is any difficulty breathing.
Pool Rule # 8: Establish pool rules & make sure they are followed.
As the owner of a backyard swimming pool, it’s a good idea to have a sign posted for everyone to see, outlining your basic rules for the pool. It’s never too early to begin reinforcing safety rules around water. Every child is different so consider enrolling your child in swimming lessons when you feel they are ready.
There are so many important lessons when it comes to water safety, not just the actual swimming skills. Kids needs to learn that swimming in a pool is not the same as swimming in open water, where they need to be aware of things like uneven surfaces, currents, undertows and changing weather. From the first time your kids swim, teach children to never go near or in water without an adult present. Whether you’re swimming in a backyard pool or in a lake, teach children to swim with an adult.
For more information on backyard pool safety, visit the Canadian Red Cross website here: www.redcross.ca/watersafetytips