Written by SMH Mother-Baby Nurse Sheera Thomas
With summer weather arriving on the Suncoast, area parents will be giving more thought to swim lessons and pool safety for the kiddos. But drowning prevention isn’t just a warm-weather issue — especially for those families that have a swimming pool at home. It should be a year-round effort that goes beyond learn-to-swim classes and “pool rules.”
Did You Know
- Drowning is the leading cause of death (after birth defects) among toddlers and young children who are 1 to 4 years old.
- Most drownings happen in home swimming pools, and Florida has more residential pools per capita than any other US state, except Arizona.
- A review of child drownings in California, Arizona and Florida, where pools are most common, shows that nearly 70% of the children were not expected to be in or near the pool; 46% were last seen in the house.
What We Can Do
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has many recommendations to help keep kids safe around water. Installing a pool fence and deploying a pool alarm are two must-do safety precautions that the AAP advises for pool safety at home.
If you have any children (crawling age or older) who visit or live in your pool home, you absolutely have to have a pool fence or gate. These create a barrier and deterrent to keep children from getting to the pool unsupervised. Installing a pool alarm adds another level of protection, one that can alert a caregiver when a child gets past the barrier fence.
Drowning is silent. Alarms break the deadly silence.
Pool Fence Best Practices
- A fence should completely surround the pool, separating it from the house and the rest of the yard; it should be at least 4 feet high.
- Because they are easy to climb, chain-link fences are not recommended for use as pool fences. An effective pool fence should not have any footholds or handholds. Be sure to keep lawn and patio furniture, as well as play equipment, away from the pool fence; industrious toddlers quickly learn they can use nearby items to help them climb over the fence.
- There should be less than 4 inches of space between any vertical slats in the fence to prevent children or pets from sneakily squeezing through.
- The pool fence should feature a self-closing and self-latching gate that only opens out, away from the pool area. The latch should be at least 54 inches from the ground, out of a young child's reach.
- House doors should be locked if a child could get to the pool through them.
- When swimming time is over, be sure to remove all pool toys from the pool and surrounding area to reduce temptation, and make sure the gate is locked securely.
Sounding the Alarm
- Pool alarms: Swimming pool alarms detect any break in a pool’s water surface. Whether it’s a child that’s fallen in while reaching for a toy or an acorn from a nearby tree, once the alar detects the surface break, it will sound off to attract attention.
- Alarms for the home’s exit points: Door and gate alarm systems can include with touchpads to let adults pass through without setting the alarm off.
- Securing windows: Window guards and alarms should be considered for home windows that face the pool or could allow access to the pool. Window guards, metal grills installed in windows, can keep young children from climbing out, even when the window is open.
We always encourage our families to invest in a pool alarm as a second line of defense to supplement a pool fence. As parents, our job is to keep our kids safe — and the kids do not try to make it an easy job for us. Children can be adventurous, and as every parent knows, they are often super quiet when doing something they know isn’t allowed. (Last year, I saw a viral video go around on social media with a little girl sneaking through the pool gate, and she was quiet as a mouse and persistently wiggled till she made it to the other side.)
You’ll never regret installing a pool alarm that you never needed.
SMH Mother-Baby Discharge Facilitator and Lactation Consultant Sheera Thomas, RN, has been an OB nurse for more than 20 years. She is an internationally board-certified lactation consultant, a certified childbirth educator and—perhaps her most demanding role—a mother of four.