As the summer gets under way and everyone starts to open their pools, unwrap the outdoor furniture and weed the gardens, one of the last things to be thought about is safety. It's boring and it rarely looks aesthetically pleasing. However, a pool in your yard is an extreme hazard and should be handled as such. You take the time to replace the batteries in the smoke alarms, make sure you have fire extinguishers and teach your children about 911. But what about the pool?
Drowning is the leading cause for accidental injury-related death among children ages 1 to 4. The most common place is their home pool, 77 percent had only been missing for five minutes or less when found in the pool and 70 percent weren't even expected to be in or near the pool at the time. It's not only small children that are at risk; 5,000 children 14 and under go to the hospital every year because of accidental drowning and 15 percent die and 20 percent suffer permanent neurological disability. In 9 out of 10 of these deaths the children were under the care of one or both parents at the time of the drowning.
What can you do to minimize the risk? First and foremost, get a fence. As someone who has spent many, many years servicing pools in the summer, I can count on one hand how many pools have a safety fence around them. On the fence about getting a fence? Open your back door and run to your pool, that's how long it takes for your child to start drowning. Now count to 30. More than likely it's all over that point. There are many types of safety fence available. You should call a qualified installation company that can talk to you about the various options, benefits and the costs.
If you have a main drain on your pool, make sure that its cover meets all the current guidelines for entrapment prevention. It is very easy for long hair to get caught in the main drain, holding a person at the bottom. You can also add a vacuum break to your main drain line. They are a simple device that closes the line if it senses a blockage so that the person trapped can pull away without the suction of the pump holding them.
More expensive but also useful is an automatic cover. Simply turn a key and a cover closes across the pool that can support any child or adult if they happen to venture out or fall in accidentally. Remove the key, take it inside and store it in a safe place and sleep well knowing that your pool is safe. An additional benefit to these are your pool staying cleaner and requiring less chemicals.
Most importantly, teach your children about pool safety. Help them to understand the rules, don't let them play in the yard unsupervised without a safety fence around your pool, get them swimming lessons from a young age, and don't assume that they can save themselves because they know how to swim. Teach them the basics to save themselves, run drills with them every week so they know what they need to do to get themselves to safety. If you can save them a moment's panic, that may be all it takes for them to be safe in their beds that night.
I truly hope that the worst problem that any of you experience with your pool is a little algae, and that your family and friends can enjoy it for many years while staying safe. But, this spring I urge you to evaluate your safety measures and ensure that you are doing everything in your power to keep your family from harm.
Joshua Borsack works at in East Hampton Village.