Swimming Pool Safety Essentials
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Decades of family fun by the pool can be wiped out in an instant. A swimming pool is one of the great joys in life but a single serious accident in or around your pool would make it hard to look at the pool in the same way ever again. There are no mixed words about swimming pools - having a swimming pool in your backyard is something that is dangerous, and something that you must respect. The real danger however is in complacency. The pool sits silently in the yard year after year, and is the source for endless hours of fun and relaxation - it is easy to see how a pool owner can become complacent.
Swimming pools kill more people under 18 in the USA than guns. Really let that statistic soak in. What have you done to your pool to protect your family, friends and neighbors? If you have taken every safety precaution with your pool and still were to have a pool related accident at least you would feel consoled in that you had done everything you reasonably could have to prevent the accident. If you have absolutely no safety equipment, or your pool itself is a liability due to disrepair, then you are going to feel terrible should the worst ever happen. As a responsible pool owner you need to take steps to secure the pool area as well as having essential safety and life saving equipment on hand, in good order, at all times. This list will help you to consider some of the pool safety essentials that you should have.
Automatic Pool Covers
The holy grail in swimming pool safety equipment. An automatic swimming pool cover is the ultimate way to secure the pool when not in use. Simply turn a key and the
solid (not mesh) cover slides out and covers the pool. The ease if use ensures that you always close the cover - it only takes about 15 seconds to cover the pool.
This completely prevents the possibility of someone accidentally falling into the pool and drowning. Remember that it is not only your own children that you need to
worry about, but also any neighborhood children, or even dogs, that may one day find access to your pool.
In addition to the safety benefits that an automatic pool cover provides, there is also a distinct efficiency advantage to automatic covers. Having the pool covered at all times when not in use will increase the thermal and chemical efficiency of your pool dramatically - as much as a 90% decrease in efficiency losses. Which is good since an automatic pool cover is a serious investment in safety. Retrofit covers are in the $5000 to $10,000 range and integrated safety covers (that are built into the original pool design) can be as much as $12,000 to $15,000. This is only for rectangle shaped pools. If you want to have an automatic cover on a freeform shaped pool then you will need a deck-mounted solution (does not look as good) or a much more expensive style of cover that unfolds like an accordion as opposed to rolled up on the end of the pool like rectangular safety covers.
Due to the costs and installation limitations of automatic pool covers they will not be suitable to every pool and every budget. If you have the ability to use one on your pool, there is no better way to improve the safety of your pool area. If you have a freeform shaped pool or simply do not have the budget for an auto cover then the next best thing you can do to secure your pool area is to install a swimming pool safety fence.
Pool Safety Fences
The ultimate in affordable ways to secure your pool area is a safety fence. Pool safety fences are a great way to provide a physical barrier to your pool regardless of the shape or orientation of your pool. A safety fence has the ability to install into a concrete deck, interlock stones, grass or even garden areas so they are extremely versatile for installation. They are typically four feet tall and comes in fence sections that are 5 to 10 feet in length.
Pool safety fences are something that you can install yourself if you have the ability to operate a masonry drill. The fence comes as a kit of which you need to order enough pool fence 12' panels to go around your pool, as well as self closing gate kit. An additional item that you should get to help you with the drilling of the holes in your deck is the drill guide which will make sure each of your holes are true. This is very important in the final look of the fence uprights and well worth the additional investment in the kit. A pool fence like this is not a 100% guarantee that no unauthorized people can access the pool but it is an excellent deterrent.
Swimming Pool Alarms
As a safety minded swimming pool professional, it is with a word of caution that I would endorse you to consider a swimming pool alarm system. My main concern is the false sense of security that can come with a pool alarm like this. These pool alarms work well, as advertised, with minimum false alarm problems typically reported. Pool vacuums and robotic cleaners do not tend to cause false alarms and these units are sensitive enough to reliably alarm for even fairly minor splashes at the opposite end of even large pools.
You should consider a pool alarm product such as this as a secondary form of pool protection. It does not actually secure the pool area or prevent access to the pool - just an audible alarm signal should movement in the water be detected. If you understand the limitations of this form of increasing the safety of your pool then by all means, do get one. There is no substitution for limiting access to the pool with a physical barrier, but this is a great back up safety device that you should get if you want your pool to be as safe as possible.
Shallow End Safety Rope Dividers
The reason why a pool safety rope is needed across the shallow end of the pool is because the long slop of the pool can be very slippery. Children playing in the shallow end are going to, of course, walk a fine line with how close to the deep end they will go. It is possible for kids to slip on the slope and end up in deeper water. While most of the time this is not a huge concern, it does present the possibility for a weaker swimmer to accidentally do the same thing. Having a shallow end divider across the shallow end break of the pool will make sure that swimmers stay in the shallow end - and in a worst case scenario at least there is something to grab onto.
Of course a safety rope is not a replacement for direct supervision of kids in the pool but an additional layer of protection to help make your pool area safer in general. Unfortunately you would need to have rope anchors installed in your pool wall to use a rope divider like this. If you do not have one then you can explore installing it in the pool deck, or having them added the next time you renovate the interior surface of your pool.
Pool Rescue Buoys
Possibly the most important piece of life saving equipment for your pool that most people do not have. The logic that many pool owners follow is that the pool is so small so why would you need a rescue buoy and a heaving line? What if there is a person struggling to stay above water and the only person nearby can not swim? The rescue buoy is the first item deployed to a distressed swimmer and something that absolutely every pool should have.
A lot of the time people make the mistake of cheaping out when looking at these rescue buoys. You can buy a round piece of foam for pretty cheap however if you are actually concerned about the safety of your pool then you need to get an authentic, high quality, USCG approved ring buoy. Cheaper floats may look similar but will deteriorate in only a few years, or less. Make the investment in a quality life saving ring, and hope that you never actually need to use it.
Pool Safety Hooks
Another essential piece of swimming pool safety equipment is the pole hook. This tool is used to retrieve distressed swimmers struggling on the srface of the water, but also anything that is now below the surface. A rescue ring buoy is helpful for swimmers who are still able to help themselves, however what if someone who can not swim discovers someone below the surface or on the bottom of the pool? Without a safety hook this would be a very bad situation.
When pools are first installed they are often stocked with a maintenance kit and safety equipment. Something like a safety hook would have once upon a time had a telescoping pole dedicated to it which has probably long since been replaced as the leaf net and vacuuming pole. If you do not have a dedicated pole and safety hook hanging adjacent to your pool then you need to add this to your shopping list.
Commercial swimming pools have long since mandated signage with important information for swimmers. Residential pools, which famous for the "don't P in our pool" signs, are often lacking in basic safety signage. The most important signs for around a pool are ones that indicate shallow water, no diving as well as a sign with CPR instructions as well as emergency contact information.
Signs are not going to do much on their own if nobody is enforcing the rules around the pool area. Having safety signage is a good first step, but enforcing a strict adherence to the pool rules is even more important. One sign that people tend to forget about since it is not technically in the pool area is a close this gate sign for any gates that lead to the pool area. An open gate to an unsupervised pool is a recipe for disaster and something to be taken very seriously.
Pool Fence Safety Locks
A magnetic safety gate latch is a great addition to any pool that is secured with a fence or gate. This gate latch is designed to catch and latch every time the door closes by using a strong magnet to ensure the gate closes consistently. This latch can be adapted to any material of fence so long as the shape of the fencing is square (as opposed to round).
Self closing and self latching gates are a bylaw requirement for houses with swimming pools in most areas in North America. The concern comes from pools as they age and the property changes or deteriorates. Gates become crooked with age and latches do not catch as easily as they once did - or at all. Ensure that your pool is always secured by installing this magnetic pool fence safety lock on any gate surrounding your pool. If your gate does not self close then you should also add these self closing gate hinges.
Slip Resistant Pool Decks
One of the biggest and most serious concerns for accidental injury around a swimming pool relate to slipping and falling accidents on the pool deck. A wet pool deck
and bare feet are not a great traction combination. This is why no running around the pool has long since been a well known pool safety rule. In previous generations
it was most common to have a broomed concrete pool deck. The brooming process provides an aggressive, slip resistant surface for maximum purchase when walking on wet
concrete in bare feet. In more recent years swimming pools are placing more importance on the looks and design over things like slip resistance and safety.
Stamped concrete in particular is very popular for swimming pool decks however many forms of stamped concrete are incredibly slippery when wet. For this reason I tend to encourage pool owners to go with something other than stamped concrete around a pool, but if the stamped concrete look is something that you have your heart set on then you should be using a product that increases the traction of the surface. This product is a silica sand additive that you would add to a concrete sealer before sealing the deck. Since this is something that stamped concrete decks need every few years anyway (re-sealing) then why not add this product to give a better, more slip resistant surface to walk on around your pool.
Make Pool Safety A Priority
The best defense against an accident around the pool is to establish and enforce rules about what not to do around a pool, as well as have all appropriate safety equipment for the pool on hand at all times. By reinforcing the need for safety around the pool with all swimmers you can avoid the dangers of complacency around the pool. When you begin to take for granted the dangers associated with a backyard swimming pool you are incrementally increasing your odds of experiencing an accident first hand - do not let your guard down around the pool and be prepared for a worst case scenario at all times. Hopefully you will never need any of these items.
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