Practicing Pool Safety

By Mary Beth Wallace

Did you know that drowning is one of the top two leading causes of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 1 to 14? According to the American Red Cross, more than 200 young children drown in backyard swimming pools annually – yet with the proper care and proactive parental supervision, future accidents are 100% preventable. Here’s how you can make pool safety a priority at your home.

Basic Pool Safety Tips

Never leave children unattended.

Designate a responsible adult to supervise children in the swimming pool at all times. Common distractions, including technology and household chores, should be avoided when watching children. A helpful method is the 10/20 rule: An adult should scan the pool every 10 seconds and be able to reach a distressed child within 20 seconds. Remember that drowning rarely involves cries for help – it’s silent and all too easy to miss.

Keep life jackets and water rescue equipment on hand.

Pool floats and inflatable “water wings” are not always reliable flotation devices. Purchase properly-fitting, U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets to keep young or inexperienced swimmers safe while in the pool, and replace the jackets when they grow worn or tear. Every backyard pool should also have quick access to a life hook, as well as a safety ring buoy, in cases of emergency.

Establish pool rules.

Rules may include: no running when near the pool, no diving into shallow areas, no pushing or horseplay, and no swimming alone. Post the listed rules in plain sight to serve as a reminder to both family and pool guests.

Recommended Guidelines

Enclose your backyard pool with a barrier.

Build or maintain a fence that is at least four feet high and includes a self-closing, self-latching gate. Keep the gate locked and the perimeter of the fence cleared; children can use objects such as lawn chairs or other stackable furniture to climb over the fence and into danger.   

Cover your pool when not in use.

When the pool is not being used, and especially during the off-season months, install a safety cover to protect your pool from debris and prevent life-threatening accidents. Covers are made for both in-ground and above-ground pools. Also, remove any ladders or steps that can be used for pool access.

Install a pool alarm.

From perimeter and pressure-sensitive alarms to gate alarms, these devices further increase a pool’s security. Pool alarms should not, however, be treated as a stand-alone solution to pool safety.   

Handling an Emergency

Be prepared.

Have a well-stocked first-aid kit available near the pool, ready to treat everything from skinned knees to bee stings. Adhesive bandages, gauze pads, non-latex gloves, antiseptic cream, and tweezers are just a few of the items to include in your kit. Pool owners should also stay up-to-date on CPR training and methods to assist drowning victims.

If someone is drowning, follow the “Throw, Don’t Go” rule.

Toss a lifesaving device, such as a life hook or even a pool noodle, for the victim to grasp. Avoid jumping in after a panicked victim, as the struggle may pull both parties under water. 

Dial 911 if the drowning victim is unresponsive.

In cases of near-drowning, CPR may need to be administered. If the victim is unresponsive or not breathing, ask someone to call 911 and then begin performing CPR. Continue until either the victim is revived or emergency personnel reach the scene. Medical attention is required to help prevent any related health complications.   


Swimming is more than just a summer activity – it can be a life-saving skill. Teach children to swim from an early age (formal lessons are recommended for ages four and up), and they’ll be able to enjoy that skill for a lifetime.
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