With summer just around the corner we figured it was time to start talking about pool safety. We have two experts today, Dr. Julie Gilchrist a medical epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Injury Center’s Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, and David Brimm with the American Fence Association. First up is Dr. Glichrist:


What are some common mistakes parents make when it comes to pool safety?
Parents may mistakenly believe that supervision is enough to keep their young children out of a pool when they are not expected to be there. Parents may underestimate the mobility of their children. Barriers, such as four-sided pool fencing, can help prevent children from gaining unintended access to the pool area from the house without the caregivers’ awareness. Most young children who drowned in residential pools had been out of sight less than five minutes and were in the care of one or both parents at the time.

Also, parents may think that they will hear if a child is having trouble in the water. But children most commonly drown quickly and quietly. Many drown in the midst of a pool party with many people around. If you are hosting a gathering where children may have access to the pool, designate one adult to have eyes on the pool activities at all times. Rotating the responsibility will ensure everyone can enjoy the other activities. Just make sure everyone knows who is the ‘water watcher’ – don’t assume!
I’ve heard of pool alarms (where it alerts parents that someone is in the pool), do you feel these are effective to preventing accidents?

The most effective means to reduce drowning in residential pools is to prevent access to the water by installing four-sided fences with self-closing, self-latching gates. If the house forms a side of the barrier, using a power safety cover over the pool will also prevent access to the water. Pool alarms which alert the home owner when someone enters the pool can be an additional layer of protection but is not a substitute for physical barriers such as fencing and weight-bearing safety covers. The Consumer Product Safety Commission evaluated some pool alarms and their report is available at: .

At what age would you recommend a child to take swim lessons?
The American Academy of Pediatrics and CDC both believe that all children should learn to be safe in and around the water. Swimming is more than just a recreational activity (although it is an exceptional form of exercise); it is a valuable, potentially lifesaving skill. Recent studies suggest that formal swimming lessons may be beneficial even among preschool aged children. We suggest that parents consider the child’s potential exposure to water (i.e., whether they ever have access to pools, ponds, or other water hazards) and developmental readiness for lessons in consultation with their pediatrician to determine the appropriate time to start lessons. However, even with swim lessons, we caution parents to resist any false sense of security. No child is drown proof. Every child regardless of swim training should be appropriately protected from unintended access to the water with four-sided isolation pool fencing and additional adjunctive barriers as appropriate (door locks/alarms, pool alarms or weight bearing pool covers). Additionally, when in the water, all children should be appropriately supervised at all times regardless of their participation in swimming classes.

Besides fences and swim lessons, what other tips do you have to keep the pool safe?

I encourage parents and caregivers to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). In the time it might take for paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills could make a difference in someone’s life.

What tips do you have for pool safety at a community pool, or a friend/family home?

In any venue, even if there is a lifeguard, children should be supervised by a parent or caregiver. In crowded pools, lifeguards often don’t see a child in trouble until another patron alerts them. Parents should carefully watch their children at any aquatic venue they visit.

Additionally, parents should be aware of some preventable health risks associated with aquatic activities. 1) Recreational water illness – ingesting contaminated pool water from ill children or young children not yet toilet trained; prevention includes appropriate chemicals to treat and behavior to prevent contamination. 2) Water intoxication – ingestion of large amounts of water by very young children can dilute the blood and lead to seizures; do not forcibly dunk children and watch for excessive swallowing of water. 3) Hypothermia – reduction of body temperature in cool water; very young children may not be able to maintain their body temperature in water below 90 degrees. Body heat dissipates 30 times faster in water than air and small children have a large body surface area relative to their mass and are affected more quickly. 4) Psychological stress from negative experiences in or around the water; these can lead to a life-long fear or avoidance of the water.


Below is what David Brimm provided for us from The American Fence Association.



According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, each year, nationwide, more than 350 children under 5 years old drown in residential swimming pools, and another 2,600 are injured. In some of the nation’s sunbelt states, drowning has been the leading cause of accidental death in the home of children under 5 years old. The tragedy is that these accidents usually occur in a pool owned by a family that didn’t install proper fencing.

From the American Fence Association, here are five steps to ensure that the fence around a swimming pool offers maximum safety protection:

1) Use a self-closing and self-latching gate

The fence installed around a pool should have a self-latching gate. The latch should be out of a child’s reach. When the release mechanism of the self-latching device is less than 54 inches from the bottom of the gate, the release mechanism for the gate should be installed on the side facing the pool at least 3 inches below the top of the gate. Placing the release mechanism at this height prevents a young child from reaching over the top of a gate and releasing the latch. Also, the gate and barrier should have no opening greater than 1/2 inch within 18 inches of the latch release mechanism. This prevents a young child from reaching through the gate and releasing the latch.

2) Restrict access through and over fence opening

It is important that links, pickets, horizontal members or slats limit the ability for a small child or pet to get over or through the fence. So take this into account when selecting a pool fence design.

For example, with chain link fencing, the mesh size should not exceed 1.25 inches between the parallel sides of the mesh and have no opening larger than 1.75 inches.

Picket fences should have spacing less than 4 inches between the pickets and have at least 45 inches between the top and bottom horizontal members. If the space between horizontal members is less than 45 inches, then the horizontal members should be on the swimming pool side of the fence.

With ornamental fencing constructed in an open style, an unobtrusive mesh can be added behind the pickets to prevent children and pets from climbing through.

Keep in mind that whatever fence style you select, observers should be able to see through the fence from any vantage point where there would be monitoring for safety.

3) Be sure the fence is high enough

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that pool fencing be at least 48 inches high to prevent young children from getting over it into the pool. The 48 inches measurement should be “above grade,” which means as measured from the ground. This measurement should be the minimum height of the fence at every point as measured on the side that faces away from the pool.

For an aboveground pool, promote safety by building a fence high enough to restrict access to the pool. Also be sure to restrict access to the gate off the steps or ladder to the pool.

4) Surround the entire pool area

Just fencing off the yard doesn’t necessarily prevent access to the pool. Consequently, the pool requires fencing of its own.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics Prevention of Injury Policy, four-sided fencing that isolates the pool from the house decreases the number of pool immersion injuries among children by more than 50 percent. A study in Phoenix put that number as high as 90 percent. Consequently, in addition to a yard perimeter fence, a fence isolating the pool from the home is recommended, especially for homeowners with young children. Install a fence or other barrier completely around the pool.

5) Hire a professional fence contractor

With so much at stake, only a trained, professional fence contractor should be used to install fencing around a pool. Also, it’s a good idea to have your fence contractor work with the pool installer to ensure that all safety areas are covered.

The contractor you use should not only do work that meets codes and standards, but should offer a guarantee, negotiate ethically, use quality materials, have workers covered by liability insurance, and offer recourse if you need additional work done.

You can find professional fence contractors near you through the American Fence Association website, www.americanfenceassociation.com.


Are there any other water/pool concerns that you have that were not addressed? Leave them in the comment section!

Need a laugh today? Head over to the Hughes Triplets and read a post by their guest blogger, Rebekah Scott Hunter, author of “Motherhood Is Easy…As Long As You Have Nothing Else To Do For The Next 50 Years”.