Staying cool – and safe – in the pool

Thu, June 12, 2014

Taking a dip in the pool is an easy way to cool off during the hot summer days in Oklahoma. Following a few basic safety tips will ensure accidents do not dampen the good times. 

“In many cases, drowning and other pool related accidents are entirely preventable,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist. “It’s very possible to both have fun and stay safe.”

As a starting point, families should make sure everyone, including the kids, knows how to swim, and adults should be able to perform CPR on both kids and adults.

It also is a good idea for parents to teach kids about safe behavior in the pool and share with them ways they can help in case of an emergency, said Peek.

In fact, pools and spas can be especially dangerous for kids. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates nearly 300 kids younger than age 5 annually drown in pools and spas and more than 3,200 the same age are sent to hospitals due to submersion injuries.    

“Kids should be monitored constantly while they are in and near pools and spas,” said Peek. “One way to make sure they are never left unattended is to appoint a ‘pool watcher,’ even if you’re at a commercial or public pool with lifeguards on duty.”  

As another precaution, keep children out of the pool area when the pool is not in use. The CPSC recommends surrounding residential pools and spas with fences at least 4 feet high, and installing self-closing and self-latching gates. 

Also, consider installing pool and spa covers, and using alarms in the pool and on access doors to alert you when someone is in the area, though alarms are not a substitute for supervision. Portable pool ladders should be removed when not in use, and smaller portable pools should be emptied and stored after each use.

Make certain the pool is properly maintained. Drains, pipes and other openings – especially if they are broken, loose or missing – can pose a danger to swimmers of all ages and levels of experience. In fact, the suction from a pool or spa drain could be strong enough to trap an adult underwater. 

“Hair, swimwear, jewelry or limbs or other body parts can become entangled or lodged in a suction opening,” Peek said. “Using any pool or spa with broken or missing drain covers is dangerous. Immediately report any damaged drain covers to the pool operator.” 

For your pool at home, assemble a safety kit that includes a first aid kit; a pair of scissors to cut hair, clothing or a pool cover; a charged portable phone to call for emergency assistance; and a flotation device. 

“Let your neighbors, babysitters and houseguests know you have a pool,” Peek said. “In the event a child does go missing, be sure to check nearby pools and spas immediately.” 

While enjoying community and commercial pools, take a moment to identify the location of life-saving equipment such as life rings and reaching poles. Also, look for posted safety rules and the nearest phone. 

For more information about pool safety, contact your local county Extension office and visit www.poolsafety.gov