Layers of protection
The Consumer Product Safety Commission advises pool owners to use layers of protection to prevent drowning in swimming pools and spas. These layers include a barrier or fence, at least 4-feet tall with self-closing, self-latching gates, a pool and spa cover, and an alarm system that can notify adults of unwanted intrusion into the pool area.
All pools should be totally surrounded by a 4-sided fence. For residential pools, in most cases the house itself should not be considered one of the four sides, unless the doors and windows are secured with locks and alarms that warn of unwanted pool area entry.
The locks and alarms on the doors and windows should be placed high, such that a small child cannot reach them, even with the assistance of a chair. The doors and windows should also be of the self-closing and self-locking variety.
The barriers themselves can be made from a variety of materials (again, subject to local ordinances), although mesh fences are among the most popular. Mesh fences are a popular choice because they are rust-free, transparent, customdesign friendly, and removable.
An additional layer of protection can be achieved by using pool and spa safety covers. It is important to note that not all pool covers are safety covers. A true safety cover carries an ASTM label, signaling that the cover conforms to national standards.
A further layer of protection includes alarms that warn of entry into the pool area or pool itself.
There are several types of alarms. Experts recommend that homeowners install alarms at all windows, doors and pool entrances. There is also a “perimeter awareness sensor,” a devise that detects motion in the pool area and sounds an alarm. This kind of alarm will warn of unwanted intrusion into the pool area, but not into the pool itself.
There are also two kinds of alarms that are actually inside the pool that can detect unauthorized entry into the pool.
Wristband sensors are also available to alarm of child intrusions into pools, but they rely on the fact that the child is actually wearing the wristband to begin with. When the sensor in the wristband becomes wet, a remote alarm is activated, warning the parent that the wristband has been exposed to water.
The National Drowning Prevention Alliance stresses that no single device or solution can prevent child drownings. That means multiple strategies should be used simultaneously at all times. In addition to physical layers of protection, there are also layers of protection that can help minimize injury, such as teaching children to swim, learning proper rescue technique, and knowing CPR.
And remember: No matter what safety system is in use, there is no substitute for absolute adult supervision any time a child is near a pool.