Of all preventable injuries, drowning is the number one cause of death in children under the age of 5. It doesn’t always happen at home, but hundreds of children drown to death in residential pools every year. And the accidents usually takes place when kids aren’t swimming—or when they aren’t supposed to be.
According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, 69% of children who drown in a home pool were not expected to be in or near the pool by the person supervising them. Nearly half (46%) were last seen inside the home, and 23% were last seen in the yard or on the porch or patio. Only the remaining 31% were known to be in or at the pool.
These numbers highlight why childproofing your pool at home is so important. Of course, constant close supervision is also essential while kids are known to be playing in or around the pool. But you can eliminate a substantial amount of unnecessary risk with some simple steps to prevent young children from accessing the pool when they’re not supposed to be there.
How to Keep Unsupervised Kids Out of the Pool
- Teach children—and reiterate it often—that they cannot be in or around the water without a grownup there with them
- A barrier around the pool is the best defense; put up a fence or wall all the way around the pool that’s at least 4 feet high and that has no foot or handholds a child could use to climb over
- Vertical slats in a fence should be no more than 4 inches apart to prevent children from slipping through
- Install self-closing and self-latching gates or doors on your fence or wall
- But don’t rely on automated capabilities; always double check that the door or gate is completely closed and that the latch or locking mechanism is fully engaged
- Latches or locks should not be accessible to small children; those that are mounted at least 3 inches down on the interior (pool) side are generally effective
- There should be no openings that would allow a child to reach through the fence or wall to operate the latch or lock
- Repair self-closing mechanisms and self-locking devices immediately if they stop working properly
- Never prop open the door or gate to the pool
- Don’t leave chairs, tables, sturdy plants, or other things near the fence or wall that a kid could use to climb over it
- If there’s a door leading from your home directly to your pool, it should have high-mounted childproof locks and an alarm
- Invest in a power safety cover for your pool that’s rated to withstand the weight of at least two adults and one child
- Remove ladders or steps that provide access to your above-ground pool when not in use
- Don’t leave toys in or around the pool, as they can attract attention from young kids and encourage extra effort to retrieve them
- Make sure babysitters are aware of the pool, your pool rules, and how to confirm that all the safety precautions are in place
- Provide children with professional swimming lessons when they’re ready, but don’t think that this eliminates the need for childproofing your pool or for supervising kids when they’re in or around the water