Most of the time, teaching your kids to swim will involve a pool. Whether you’re at a friend’s pool, a commercial pool, or your own pool, make sure the pool has these four safety features before you start a swimming lesson.
Pools should be fenced, and the gate leading to the pool should always be closed.
Barriers and alarms aren’t foolproof safeguards. They’re designed to give you a little more time to look for a missing child before the child can accidentally—or with some effort—get into the pool. They’re not a substitute for supervision.
If you have a pool, install a four-sided pool fence that’s at least four feet high, with self-closing, self-latching, outward-opening gates and latches higher than kids can reach. Fences need to prevent kids from getting over, under or through them. They shouldn’t have anything a child could use as a foothold or handhold for climbing. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission provides detailed information about the specific structure of fences.
Consider getting an alarm that sounds when the gate to the pool area opens. Make sure the switch for the alarm is locked or out of reach of kids.
A power—not manually operated—safety cover that meets ASTM standards can be used as a layer of protection, but remember that a young child can drown in just inches of water. A pool cover that sinks slightly below the surface of the water or that has puddles on it can be a drowning hazard even if it prevents a child from getting into the pool.
A Working Phone
Make sure that there’s a working phone near the pool and that emergency numbers are posted.
A Drain Cover
Don’t use a pool or hot tub without a drain cover. If you have your own pool, install a Safety Vacuum Release System, which shuts off the drainage pump if the drain is blocked, preventing kids from becoming trapped at the bottom of the pool by the suction of the drain on their hair, clothing, or part of their bodies.
Don’t use glass of any kind around the pool. Be aware of things made of glass other than the obvious drinking glasses. Don’t use breakable tabletops, lamps, vases, or other furnishings around the pool.
Other Safety Measures
Do everything you can to make sure the pool you use to teach your kids to swim is safe. Other safety measures you can take include:
- Remove steps and ladders from aboveground pools when the pool isn’t being used.
- Don’t leave tempting toys in or near the water. Remove them from the pool area when you’re not there. Kids can fall into the pool while they’re trying to reach a toy.
- Have your pool inspected regularly. Know and clearly mark the electrical cut-off switch for the pool pump.
- Keep the water level of the pool high enough to make it easy for a small child to reach the edge of the pool and pull himself out.
If you have a pool, check with your local building and planning department about safety standards in your community, and always use common sense when you’re evaluating a pool and its safety.