There are few accidents more tragic, nor more preventable, than a child drowning. As such, this is one area in which too much diligence and caution is not enough.
Many of the tips below may seem obvious on their own. Only when compiled together does it become clear just how much can – and should – be done.
Most of the following are very simple and cost-effective. Others may seem excessive, but will pay for themselves in peace of mind.
1. Supervise (and not just at the pool)
We all know of the common sense wisdom of supervision. However, it’s all too easy to forget that applies everywhere: not just in or near the pool, but anywhere on a property that has access to one. The majority of drowning incidents – and lucky near-misses – occur when the child is meant to be elsewhere, having entered the pool area from the house or garden.
Supervision isn’t just a parental responsibility. It also includes full instructions to other babysitters, carers and other family members. As an additional safety net, it is also worth advising friends and other regular visitors to stay alert and watch out for your child’s whereabouts, just in case.
Learn about touch supervision: the rule of keeping within one arm’s length of any child under five years old. The younger the child, the greater the need for full, undivided attention.
Extend this diligence to all bodies of water, not just pools. Even simple blow-up pools, water fountains and backyard buckets can be dangerous under certain circumstances.
The majority of child drowning incidents take place when children simply step out of the house or garden and into the pool area, unknown to nearby adults.
2. Teach your child to swim
This crucial step is best considered a tool in the arsenal rather than a complete solution. Remember: teaching a child to swim is a great precautionary measure, but far from a guarantee of pool safety in and of itself.
Floatation devices are another step in the right direction, but as with swimming lessons, too much faith is put into them. It always bears repeating: safety precautions are no substitute from full adult supervision.
3. Secure your pool fencing 100%.
There’s a reason most pool safety laws revolve around fence inspections. Fencing is another area in which too much diligence is not enough. Crucial steps include:
- A self-closing gate (which should close swiftly and completely from any angle, with any amount of pressure).
- Following the “10cm rule”. No gaps of more than 100 milimetres between bars, above the ground, or between the fence and gate.
- No opportunity to climb, no matter how far-fetched it might seem. This includes taps, tables, chairs, vines, hanging towels, clothes and even small plants. Never underestimate an adventurous child’s resourcefulness.
4. Take a First Aid Course
Basic knowledge of CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is a must. However, in the heat and panic of the moment, it can be all too easy to forget the basics. Which brings us to the importance of the next step…
5. Install a CPR Sign
This may seem excessive, but it’s been known to save lives when no other option presents itself.
6. Use Pool Covers Wisely
Pool covers are no substitute for fences, and certainly not for frequent and diligent supervision, but a well-installed and -maintained pool cover can work wonders for child safety.
Please keep in mind that this presents new areas of caution. It can be easy to leave a pool half covered. This runs a major risk of getting caught underneath. Make sure your child also knows the dangers of attempting to walk on a pool cover.
7. Remove Temptation
Make sure no toys or floating objects are left in the pool after use. This is one of the key causes of unsupervised drowning.
Other Pool Safety Tips
- If your pool has diving boards and pool slides, take extra care to teach your children about safe diving practices.
- Remove or reduce the height of surrounding garden beds.
- Heated spas or tubs pose an extra risk of overheating for babies and infants. Be sure
- Consider audiobooks on an iPhone or MP3 player – earphones in one ear only – if entertainment is necessary. However, keep in mind that anything less than your full, active attention is a compromise. The younger the child or children, the greater the necessity.
Never leave them alone. Far too many preventable accidents have happened – or come close to happening – in the space of a single phone call, conversation, nap or magazine article. It can be swift, it can be silent, but it can also be preventable. Maintain that healthy paranoia, do as much research as you can, and always make sure your pool fence complies with the highest possible safety standards.
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