Over the weekend, I read a news report about a young child that suffered drowning related injuries. This is a very sad event. What makes it unusual is that the pool was closed for the summer. The child was able to get under the cover. Once in the pool, he was not able to get out due to the low water level and stiff cover. Who would have thought that you have to worry about a pool closed and covered.
Anyone who has cared for a toddler or small child knows how fast and inquisitive they may be. Children at this age lack a realistic sense of danger. They are intrigued by water and often have fond memories swimming with their parents and loved ones. Now alone, they see no reason to find a way in the deep blue.
The leading cause of accidental drownings for the nearly 300 children under the gate of 5 is due to the fact that the homeowners did not completely fence in their pools and failed to use self-closing and self-latching devices per code on gates. The Consumer Protection Safety Commission reports that child drownings are the second leading cause of accidental death at home for children under 5 years old. It is not just pools. This includes hot tubs and spas as well. The CPSC has determined that the greatest means to reduce these child drownings is for pool owners to construct and maintain full barriers around the pools, spas and hot tubs. Most hot tub and spas are covered with snap on hasp. These are the same type hasp that small children play with on their car seats and cribs. They often now how to quickly snap the hasp.
CPSC publishes an annual report on child drownings. Based on this report, we have identified some key facts that you should know about pool safety.
- 300 children under the age of 5 drown in swimming pools and spas each year. This represents 75 percent of the 390 fatalities reported for children younger than 15.
- Children between the ages of 1 to 3 years represented 67 percent of the reported fatalities and 66 percent of reported injuries in pools and spas.
- Well over 4,100 children younger than 5 suffer drowning injuries and that require emergency room care. Over half are seriously injured and are admitted to the hospital.
- The great majority of drownings occur in pools owned by the family, friends or relatives.
- Portable pools of all types accounted for 10 percent of the total fatalities.
To prevent these pool drowning and injuries, all pools, spas and hot tubs should have a barrier that meets the following:
- The barrier should be at least 48” tall. Please check local codes as many communities require 72” tall barriers. This is measured from the top of the barrier to the top of the adjoining area. If there is a planter or furniture near the fence or barrier that may reduce this distance, move this item.
- The maximum vertical distance from the underside of the barrier to the top of the grade should not exceed 4”. If you have rock or loose soil reduce this distance.
- Openings in the barrier should not allow a 4-inch diameter sphere to pass through. The rule of thumb is that you may apply some reasonable force to the sphere so you may need to decrease the distance to account for flexible materials,
- Make sure that these barriers and fences are not easily climbable. Spacing between vertical members should not exceed 1¾ inches wide. Maximum mesh size for chain link fences should not exceed 1¼. This means that the standard chain link residential fencing may not be ideal for pool safety.
- Gates to the pool should be equipped with a self-locking device. Gates should open outward away from the pool with self-closing hinges. This prevents children from simply pushing inward on the gate until it pops a weak latch.
- All gate latches should be located no less than 54 inches from the bottom of the gate. Often overlooked is the release mechanism that should be located on the pool side of the gate at least 3 inches below the top of the gate.
Though not required, we highly recommend the use of alarms on all gates. These are very inexpensive and easy to install devices that sell for less than $20.00. These simple alarms work on batteries and performs much like your smoke detectors when the battery gets weak it begins to beep. These devices are also available to tie into a home security system or WIFI device