When a small child falls into a swimming pool and no one is watching, he or she can disappear alarmingly fast. Don’t expect to be alerted of trouble. The child is more likely to sink silently. He or she won’t call for help, or thrash in the water in an attempt at survival.
Knowing pool safety rules can prevent such a tragedy and in Florida they are more important than ever. The statistics about child drowning in our state are tragic. According to the Florida Department of Health, the number of toddlers who drown each year would fill three or four preschool classes.
The guidelines for pool safety aren’t always what you might assume.
For instance, who would normally think to install a lock on a pet door because there is a swimming pool in the backyard? Yet a tiny child can slip through a pet door and fall into the pool. It’s why pet door locks are recommended for households with swimming pools when they have infants and toddlers.
A Florida law first passed in 2000 requires new residential pools to be equipped with pool fences that are at least four feet high. Other safety features must be installed, such as alarms on windows and doors with direct access to the pool, in order for a new pool to pass inspection under building codes.
Florida also has developed public awareness campaigns like WaterproofFl to educate parents and caretakers.
They emphasize the “layers of protection,” including vigilance by caretakers, for keeping children safe around swimming pools.
One of the most important is to realize how easy it is to lose track of a child during a lapse of attention. A study in Florida showed child drowning most often occurred when a parent or caregiver was busy with a routine task, like going inside to answer a phone or check on the laundry. In many cases, children were only missing for 11 to 12 minutes before being found in the pool.
These are recommendations:
+ Assign a “designated watcher” to keep eyes on small children when poolside. It might seem like everyone is watching the children at a pool party, but attention is easily diverted. The safest practice is to assign the job to one adult and rotate the duty as needed.
+ Never leave a baby or small child alone near water, even for an instant. This rule applies to kiddie pools and bathtubs, too.
+ Childproof doors, windows and pet doors that allow access to the pool. Features like door alarms, pool alarms and pet door locks can be found at pool supply companies. Also make sure that gates close automatically and are self-locking.
+ Learn CPR and how to resuscitate a child. If the worst happens, you will be prepared and able to administer CPR while waiting for emergency workers to arrive.
The Florida Suncoast Safe Kids Coalition has more information on its website. The site also has an interactive in-home pool safety check. If you have small children and a backyard pool – or are a grandparent with a pool – be sure to take a look.