Is a Backyard Pool Your Summer Escape? Be Sure to Keep Safety in Mind

Families with backyard swimming pools may feel extra lucky these days, especially if they are staying home more this summer because of the pandemic. Even so, pools and spas can be quite dangerous.

Sadly, more than 379 children under age 15 drown in pools and spas annually, and about 75% of these deaths and injuries involve children younger than age 5.1 In fact, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children ranging in age from 1 to 4, and the second leading cause of accidental death for children under age 14.2

Edge of pool cluttered with toys and other swimming accessories

Another 6,700 children under age 15 sustain nonfatal pool- and spa-related injuries that require emergency treatment each year.
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With many camps and public recreational facilities closed — and more parents trying to work at home and monitor children at the same time — the American Academy of Pediatrics has warned that more children may be at risk of drowning this year.4

As tragic and pervasive as these accidents are, most of them have one thing in common – they’re preventable. This summer be sure to share these life-saving safety tips with family, friends, neighbors, babysitters, and anyone else who may have access to your pool area.

Safety Guidelines

  • Never leave a child unattended around a pool, spa, bathtub, or any body of water.
  • Have a phone available at all times when supervising or visiting a pool or spa. But don’t let it distract you from watching young swimmers.
  • If a child is missing, look in the pool or spa first, including neighbors’ pools or spas.
  • Install a 4-foot fence around the perimeter of the pool and spa, including portable pools. Use self-closing and self-latching gates. If your house serves as the fourth side of a fence around a pool, install and use a door or pool alarm.
  • Maintain pool and spa covers. Ensure that any pool or spa you use has safety-compliant drain covers. Commercial facilities are required by law to have such covers, but you should apply the same standards to your own pool. For more information, see poolsafely.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/pssa.pdf.
  • Have lifesaving equipment such as life rings, floats, and a reaching pole available and easily accessible.
  • Remove glass bottles, toys, and other potential hazards from the pool area and don’t allow running or roughhousing on or near wet, slippery surfaces. Make sure that devices with electrical cords are kept well away from the water.
  • Be aware of other electrical hazards around pools, hot tubs, and spas, such as faulty underwater lighting; aging electrical wiring that hasn’t been inspected regularly; and the use of sump pumps, power washers, and vacuums that aren’t grounded. Lighting, circuits, and nearby receptacles should be protected by Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupters (GFCIs), which offer the best safety device to prevent electrocution.
  • Limit alcohol use. Drinking alcohol not only can cause accidents for the person drinking but could lead to poor judgment and a lack of attention when supervising children.

Pool Chemicals

Injuries from pool chemicals led to about 13,500 emergency room visits during 2015–2017 (most recent data). The most common cause of injury was poisoning from ingesting chemicals or inhaling fumes. Other common injuries included skin and eye irritations and chemical burns.5

Here are some guidelines for handling and using pool chemicals safely.

  • Secure pool chemicals in their original containers and in an appropriate location. Don’t leave chemicals out where children (or pets) have access to them.
  • Open and handle chemicals in a well-ventilated area. Wear appropriate safety equipment, such as goggles or a mask, as directed by the label.
  • Add pool chemicals as directed by the product label. Never mix different chemicals, especially chlorine with acid. Pre-dissolve chemicals only when directed by the label. Add pool chemicals to water but never add water to pool chemicals.
  • Wait until pool chemicals are dissolved and/or dissipated before entering the pool.

Insurance Protection

Be sure to notify your insurance company that you have a pool and discuss appropriate coverage with your insurance professional.

In legal terms, pools are an “attractive nuisance,” and the additional risk may call for greater liability protection. If you own a pool, consider increasing your homeowners policy liability limits to $300,000 or $500,000. You might also purchase an umbrella liability policy that could provide extra protection for a wider range of risks.

In addition to liability coverage, you should have enough homeowners coverage to help repair or replace your pool if it is damaged in a severe storm or other type of disaster. Coverage for earthquake damage requires a separate policy.