With warmer temperatures coming, our thoughts are turning increasingly to outdoor activities. For children, that includes some time in swimming pools. The message today is to keep our youngsters safe, especially before and after swim times.
Adults are usually hypervigilant when children are in the pool; it’s the times when older eyes are turned away that younger eyes may be drawn to the water. Since a child can drown in just a few inches of water, safety officials and consumer groups send out cautions every year.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission last week reminded us that the same precautions that apply to larger, above-ground pools also apply to smaller models. The commission received reports that on average 35 children under age 5 drown every year in portable pools; that’s roughly 11 percent of all pool drownings among children that age.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests that adults follow several rules to help prevent these tragedies. Rule one, of course, is that children should never be left alone in a pool or near a pool that’s liable to attract their attention. When they’re not being used, smaller pools should be emptied and turned upside down or stored away; larger pools should be covered. If you’re buying a pool cover, ask if it meets the latest safety standards.
One of the best deterrents is a fence. Any pool that cannot be emptied easily should be fenced. The best fences for this purpose have no hand- or foot-holds, discouraging climbers. For complete guidelines on residential pool fences, visit the commission’s website www.cpsc.gov.
Gates on pool fences should be self-closing and self-latching, so they will shut securely even if people entering or leaving have their hands full. The gates should open outward, away from the pool; then, if a latch doesn’t fully close, a child pushing on the gate might fully close it. The latch should be placed out of the reach of small children.
If your house serves as the fourth side of a pool, equip the door leading to it with an alarm. This can alert adults that someone might be approaching an unattended pool. You also might consider pool and gate alarms.
Have a telephone nearby when anyone is using a pool. Teach children to swim and float — and some lifesaving basics — but do not consider any children to be “drown-proof” simply because they have been taught to swim.
There are legal liabilities associated with owning a pool. Consumers should check with their insurance companies or agents before making a purchase.
Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s membership-funded, nonprofit consumer organization. Individual and business memberships are available at modest rates. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit necontact.wordpress.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.