How Safe is Your Swimming Pool?


By Diane Tait

Image courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
Having a swimming pool in your yard can be a blessing, or it can be an accident waiting to happen.  One of the benefits of living in Florida is the amount of time we can spend in the water.  Unlike the northeast, where pool owners only have a scant few months to make use of their pool, in Florida we can swim nearly year around.  While that’s good news for homeowners, it can also be something of a watery minefield if you aren’t careful. 

In the US, drowning is the leading cause of death for children between 1 to 4 years of age.  Swimming pools have an almost magnetic attraction to tots.  One slip is all it takes for them to fall in.  Whether we’re talking about your own kids or your grand kids, a swimming pool can be a real danger.  In Florida alone, there were 566 drowning deaths reported for tots in 2010.  This statistic doesn’t include the number of near-drownings and hospitalization caused by children falling into swimming pools.

Of course, children aren’t the only ones who can be seriously injured or killed in swimming pools.  Believe it or not, the second most at-risk group are grandparents.  The bottom line is anyone can be injured or killed in or around a swimming pool.  That’s why I thought I’d take the time to tell you what you can do to minimize the risks if you own a pool.

It Only Takes a Second

Image courtesy of Px Here
When it comes to getting in trouble in or around a swimming pool, all it takes is one short second.  Face it, the patio around an in ground pool or the ladder leading up to an above ground pool is a hazard simply because it’s wet.  Both children and adults can slip and fall on anything wet.  While this could pose a potential lawsuit in your front yard, near your pool, it could be a deathtrap.  That’s because should someone slip and fall near your pool; they have a high probability of hitting their head and then falling into the water.

Even if the victim doesn’t drown, ingesting chlorinated water can lead to other health complications.  While drinking a few sips of chlorinated water is harmless, ingesting a significant amount can result in chlorine poisoning.  Sometimes the symptoms can take a day or more to manifest.  Everything from difficulty breathing to disorientation can present themselves long after the victim has climbed out of the pool.

An Ounce of Prevention

If you own a pool in Florida, you’re required to erect a fence or wall (at least 4-feet high) around your pool that restricts access to the water.  All gates leading to the pool need to open outward.  You’re also required to equip your pool with an approved safety covered during the months it’s not being used.  Additionally, all doors leading from the residence to the pool must be equipped with self-closing, self-latching device with the release mechanism being no lower than 54-inches above the floor.  It is also advised (but not required), that an exit alarm be installed on all doors that provide access to the pool from the home.  

The State offers a drowning education, prevention program at WaterSmartFL.com The website contains a wealth of information on safety regulations concerned with meeting your legal obligations for safeguarding your swimming pool. Failure to provide the required safeguards to a residential pool can result in a summons or arrest.  This fact will also be held against you should anyone be injured in or near your pool should the matter wind up in court.

Other Safety Concerns

Image courtesy of flickr
Other safety issues you need to be concerned with when it comes to swimming pools are drain covers.  Face it, if you can’t see your drain cover, how do you know it’s intact?  If a child swims close enough to the drain to become trapped at the bottom of your pool, will you be able to react fast enough to save them?  Only by conducting a regular inspection of your drain will you be able to tell whether it’s cracked, chipped or even missing. 

Other than jumping into the pool, do you have other safety equipment that you can use in the event someone gets into trouble in the water?  If you own a pool, I suggest you invest a few dollars to acquire a 17-inch life ring that can be thrown to anyone struggling to stay afloat.  While jumping into the pool is usually someone’s first response to a swimmer in trouble, this isn’t always the best idea since anyone who is drowning can quickly take you down to the bottom with them. 

Speaking of drowning, anyone who owns a pool really should take a basic first aid course.  The American Red Cross provides first aid training that includes mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and CPR training.  Since brain injury or death can result in as little as 5-minutes once a person stops breathing, every homeowner who also owns a pool owes it to themselves to take one of these classes.
Here are a few other items you need to keep in mind:

1.      Never turn your back on your kids or your elderly parents when they are in or near your pool.
2.      Keep your patio or deck clear of debris and leaves.
3.      Make sure all latches on gates leading to the pool area function properly.
4.      Repair any damage to the pool, deck, and filter.
5.      Skim and vacuum your pool often.
6.      Test your pool water weekly.

By following a few simple precautions, you can make sure your swimming pool will provide you and your family with years of fun in the Florida sun.

Diane Tait owns and operates A&B Insurance.  To find out more about how you can save money on your homeowner's insurance policy, go to her website or fill out the form at right.

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