Every year, the Lifesaving Society pulls together statistics on water-related deaths. So they know several things about backyard pool drownings:
- children who drown have usually gained easy access to the pool or have been left unsupervised, sometimes only for minutes;
- older adults who drown in backyard pools have often been swimming alone.
Lifesaving Society courses can teach you and your family prevention strategies, self-rescue, rescue of others and basic first aid. (See the Lifesaving Programs section or contact your Branch for more information.) In the meantime, follow these tips to improve the safety of a potentially dangerous environment:
- Stay “within arms’ reach” of children. Don’t leave your children unsupervised. Drowning can occur in as little as 10 seconds. Let the phone ring; don’t barbecue and attempt to supervise at the same time; and keep your eyes on the pool even when you’re having a conversation with others. If you’re in the water with the children, don’t turn your back to them. Watch closely at all times.
- Always watch children closely when they’re playing with inflatable toys. Inflatable toys can be dangerous. They can overturn and put the child underwater. Limit the number of toys in the pool at a given time and remove all toys from the pool after swim time. This precaution prevents children from falling in while attempting to reach them.
- Restrict access to your backyard pool. Build a lockable fence around your pool—check local by-laws for the required height of pool fences. The fence should surround the pool on all four sides, and have just one entrance. Ensure that no one can climb over, under or through it. The gate should be self-locking. When inside the house, lock all doors that lead to the pool. A toddler can slip through an unlocked door in seconds. When you aren’t using the pool, remove pool ladders and steps from above ground pools. Lock all hot tubs with safety-approved hard-top covers.
- If children can’t swim, insist that they wear a lifejacket or PFD at all times unless you’re in the water holding them. But remember that lifejackets and PFDs don’t replace supervision of children.
- Keep all chemical products away from children. Lock the chemicals in a place with good air circulation.
- Don’t dive or go head-first into the shallow end of the pool, and never dive into an above ground pool. Protect your neck. Many head and spinal injuries are caused by horseplay in backyard pools.
- Don’t swim if you’ve been drinking alcohol. Alcohol reduces your ability to respond quickly and appropriately.
- Always swim with a “buddy.” In case of emergency, someone is available to assist you. Have an emergency portable phone nearby in case you need to use it.
- Drain all backyard wading pools after use. A child can drown in just a few centimetres of water. Also untreated water left in these pools becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. Position the empty wading pool such that it can’t fill up with rain water.
- Establish a set of pool rules… …and ensure that everyone using your pool follows them.