Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pool Safety

Before we open our pool, I am semi-obsessing over making our pool safe for children and animals. There's the obvious pool safety implements, of course: it is completely fenced with a 5' high fence; the gates entering the pool are self-closing and self-latching; the door to the pool is locked whether or not we're home (unless we're actually on the deck).

But there are less obvious problems that many people don't think of.

Case #1: our door opens onto the back deck to the pool. That's a problem because it's an easy access point for children to the pool. We have two choices: put up removable but secure fencing to block access to the pool (like a big child gate) or put a second (elevated) lock on the door to prevent little ones from opening the door. Here's the fencing:
If these fences are truly secure and easy to install/remove, I think the fence option seems convenient. You just put it up when the pool's not in use and we're not around. However, if not, then we'll install a second lock on the door that's far too high for any child to reach. Probably cheaper, of course, but I'm afraid that it's easier to forget.

Case #2: animals can still get in the pool. Although dogs can swim naturally, I read that if they fall in at night, they can panic. Also, frogs and other critters can get confused in pools and drown trying to find their way out. Of course, where there's a need (or someone manufactures a need!), there's someone to sell me a solution! Well, I uncovered this solution, which I think looks neat. There are several brands that make stairs or ramps for animals, including the Scamper Ramp (shown here):
No idea if these work, but I like that it'll save pets and wildlife who may become confused in a pool.

Currently, we have a fancy-schmancy pool cover that you can walk on! It's a winter cover that can withstand up to 200 lbs of weight. It's not made for adults to walk on it, but rather to support the weight of children or animals who might escaped supervision (children) or get over the fence (animals) to venture around/on the pool. It's stretched taut so that no one can get under the cover, too. I really like this cover, but it's a winter cover. Once we open the pool, it's far too difficult to put on-and-off the pool frequently.

I considered a pool alarm (it goes off if anything penetrates the surface, creating waves). However, the literature indicates that it's prone to false alarms (such as on a windy day) so most users end up disabling the alarm. I think we'll save the money and not put in a pool alarm. I will investigate more permanent safety method that will not be disabled.

So, do you have any opinion on what we should do to ensure our pool is incredibly safe? Have you seen or experienced the animal pool ramps? Have you used the secure fences that are easily removed around pools? Any thoughts on pool safety in general that will help me out to make our pool safe for children and animals? :)

P.S. I'm thinking of creating "pool rules" to discuss with all children before they swim. Things like "no running", "no pushing", insisting that children who can't swim wear PFDs, and all the good stuff I learned in swimming lessons many years ago. Or maybe I should discuss expectations with parents? Although most parents I know are well aware of pool safety, so I might not need to have "rules". Could creating "pool rules" be going too far?


  1. We have huge pool and truly it's been my most acute worry about LP even since he started to walk. Our yard is fenced, and we also put a fence around the patio that in theory would prevent him from accessing the pool area if we weren't there, but I still worry. He could climb, learn to unfast the ties, somehow get into that super narrow space between the fence and the trees... Bleh. I won't sleep soundly until he properly learns to swim.

    For me though pool security also starts in the house: for instance, we have an alarm on our patio door, which would beep if LP were to try getting out while we're sleeping. In theory you could let the system harmed all day but in fact it's not very practical nor realistic (especially not on a nice summer day when you're in and out of the house a lot), so it only goes so far. But I've heard a lot of stories of children drowning very early in the morning because they got up on their own and wanted to "go swim" without waking their parents.

    Other than that, constant vigilance... He likes to go play alone in the yard while I cook for instance, but I let the window and patio door open, constantly check to see where he is, and constantly call out to him if he's quiet for more than a few seconds. For sure I don't take that for granted at all, but at least I know his personality is more cautious, analytical and aware of danger than impulsive and daredevil, and he really listens to us when we repeat, over and over again, that the pool is always off-limits when we're not there. He never starts running away from me in public places, for instance, and never really attempted dangerous things. When I see him play with other kids sometimes my heart stops beating for a second when they run straight into the street without looking, but he's always the one standing firmly in the yard shouting to them that they can't do that!

    The Scamper Ramp seems like a great idea, actually. I've never seen it, but will definitely look into it (I think it could potentially help a young child, not just an animal).

    And I don't think establishing pool rules is going too far, at all...

  2. I would say that if you have friends over that have kids, they should be the ones to talk to their kids about "pool rules" - UNLESS you observe them running or horsing around. Then you could ask them to not run. But most parents will be responsible, so I think it'll be okay.

    Like the scamper ramp, but not so much the fence. For one, it looks like a pain to put up/take down/move for parties... I'd just keep the cover in that situation. But the lock idea is great. And If you put it at your eye-level, and you get into the habit of it, I bet you won't forget it. I think with all the permanent fencing you've described, you guys are doing a great job keeping your pool safe.

    Of course, growing up, we never had fences around our pools or alarms!! Nor bike helmets, knee pads.... those little orange flags you put on bikes had just come out, and that was about most of the safety that we got!! LOL!!

    By the way, YOU WON!!! Let me know your address and what color of pitcher that you'd like!!!

  3. Nope - no fence. Well, down in Texas a vast majority of people have their backyards fenced in (ours included), but we didn't have a fence only for the pool.
    But, we did take several years of swimming lessons as children... so we were okay there. I am a really good swimmer. And we didn't have a pool until I was almost in Jr. High (but my sisters were still under 10).

    We also had a trampoline (so much fun) - but no pads around the springs, no net walls, etc. Just the metal frame!! Can't tell you how many times I would miss the frame when trying to get down, my leg would fall through the gap there, and I would flip over and be hanging upside down!!

    Maybe my parents secretly had it in for me.... hmmmm..... ;-)