WASHINGTON, DC (5/29/12) – Tis the season for fun in the sun. As public and private pools open up to droves of children and adults alike seeking relief from the record-setting heat, pool safety advocates kick into high gear to heighten awareness of the dangers of summer’s most coveted activity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the #1 cause of injury and death for children ages 1 to 4, highlighting the need for this activism.
In a May 24 news release, The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced the third year of its Pool Safely: Simple Steps Save Lives campaign: “This year, Pool Safely's focus is on populations most at risk of drowning, including children younger than 5 years old who represent nearly 75 percent of child drowning fatalities and African American and Hispanic children between the ages of 5 and 14 who drown at higher rates than white children. . .” The CPSC news release provides updated statistics on drownings and submersion injuries and numerous links, including the CPSC hotline, which consumers can use to report dangerous products or product-related injuries.
Resources for pool safety tips seem endless, and websites are saturated with advice concerning everything from the best sunscreens; pool fences; floatation devices; inflatable, low-cost (and potentially dangerous) pools; hazardous pool slides; pool product recalls; and much, much more. We will try to sift and sort, distilling down to some of the most useful tips and links to help point consumers in the right direction and gain the information they need to enjoy the season while remaining safe.
Developing some of the most basic safety habits in and around pools can be the simplest, most effective way to avoid injury. Consumer Reports has many articles pertaining to pool safety advice, and in their May 25, 2012 article on the subject, the organization lists some of these routine yet vital steps:
- Alarms: Any door leading from the house to the pool area should have an alarm that sounds when the door is opened. Pools should also have pool alarms that sound both at the pool and in the house if a child falls into the water.
- Covers: When not in use for extended periods of time, pools should be securely covered.
- Drains: Pool drains should have safety covers that prevent entrapment.
- Fencing: A non-climbable fence, a minimum of 4 feet high, should surround the pool. The gate on the fence should be self-closing, self-latching, and lockable.
There are even pool safety smartphone apps! As reported by Consumer Reports, Safeguard, an Arizona home security firm, offers an app that alerts users whenever their pool gate is opened via email or text message. The article also links to apps that allow users to learn and practice CPR, pool maintenance, and pool cleaning.
Smaller pools pose a less obvious but no less dangerous threat to young children than larger bodies of water. In their July, 2011 article, “Keeping Kids Safe around Pools,” Consumer Reports said that “wading pools, inflatable pools, and soft-sided, self-rising pools” often lull parents into a false sense of security when it comes to safety. Gary Smith, MD and Director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH was cited in the article. Smith, author of “Pediatric Submersion Events in Portable Above-Ground Pools in the United States, 2001-2009,” said, “Children can drown in very small amounts of water . . . We need to focus on primary prevention. Swimming lessons might prevent drowning, but they don’t make children drown-proof.”
Consumer Reports discouraged the purchase of inflatable pools and provided a list of child-specific pool safety tips:
- Children should never swim alone or only with other children. An adult must always be present when children are in a pool.
- Pay attention when your child is in a pool; don’t read, do chores, talk or text.
- Give your children swimming lessons and learn about water safety.
- Don’t leave toys in the pool when they’re not in use.
- Empty the wading pool when it’s not in use and store it upside down.
- Place the pool in a fenced-in area of the yard. The fencing should be non-climbable, at least 4 feet high, have a self-closing and self-latching gate that opens away from the pool. Ideally, this should be isolation fencing, which is four-sided fencing that goes around only the pool.
- Be sure there are no spaces under the fence or between uprights that are more than four inches wide.
- Have a pool cover that is a safety cover; don’t use clip-on covers for above-ground pools.
- Remove any items that could be used by a child to gain entry to the pool area.
- If possible, remove any steps or ladders leaning from the ground to the pool when the pool is not in use and keep these items locked away.
- Use door locks and alarms to prevent children from going to the pool area when there’s no adult to supervise them.
- Keep a life preserver, first aid kit, phone, and a hook to retrieve your child near the pool.
- Learn CPR.
- Teach your children to stay away from pool drains.
- Don’t allow children to wear dangly necklaces or wear their hair long and loose in or around the pool to prevent getting entangled in a drain.
More information on the dangers of low-cost, portable, and/or inflatable pools can be found by reading Consumer Reports’ article, “Low-cost pools pose hazards to children” on their website.
One of, if not the most, prolific resources for a wide range of drowning safety information is the Safe Kids USA website, safekids.org. The site’s Drowning Prevention page urges parents to remain “vigilant during warmer months, when the number of drownings skyrockets” and provides numerous resources to that end. Visitors to the website can find informational fact sheets, research reports, safety tips, safety videos, pool and spa product information, and kids’ products such as safety coloring books, flash cards, and sticker sheets. There are also abundant links to “Useful Websites” that not only provide poolside precautions but tips for preventing drowning in the home, around lakes, at the beach, and while boating.
Other useful links:
Information for parents and families, operators and industry, and government officials; news and media resources; events; videos; and kids’ activities. The site also provides product recall information such as the May 10, 2012 Banzai Inflatable Pool Slide Recall. These slides were sold at Walmart and Toys R Us and caused a reported death as well as severe neck injuries.
Information on laws and compliance and media links.
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