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Swimming Pool Safety: Layers of Protection

Swimming Pool Safety: Layers of Protection

Owning a backyard swimming pool can provide years of enjoyment and fun-filled recreation for your family and friends. As a responsible pool owner, it’s your job to ensure that your pool is as safe as possible. The best way to create a safe pool environment is to utilize what’s known as “layers of protection” – multiple safety products & procedures that work together to help prevent poolside accidents & emergencies.

Layers of Protection can include

  1. Barriers to the pool
  2. Supervision
  3. Training of swimmers and supervisors
  4. Pool Safety equipment

Of course, the most significant (and potentially dangerous) type of swimming pool emergency involves accidental submersion and drowning.  Most pool safety tips & pool safety products revolve around protecting against this serious issue. But there are other potential pool safety issues to guard against as well – including falls, diving injuries, weather-related injuries and more. Below are some suggested tips & products that can help you maximize the safety of your pool.

Pool Safety Products

Pool safety products work together to create a safer poolside environment, whether the pool is open or closed. Here’s a few ideas:

Poolside Fencing

Fencing around all 4 sides of an inground pool (to completely separate the pool area from the house and yard) is the safest fence possible, and may be required by your city.

Steps & Ladders

Necessary for above ground pools, steps & ladders may provide a means of escape for those with limited swimming skills. Ladders that provide access to an above ground pool should be secured and locked or removed when the pool is not in use. Steps (but not ladders) allow family pets and wild animals a means to escape danger, should they fall in your pool.

Pool Gates

Pool gates should always self-close and self-latch, and have latches higher than a child’s reach. Lock any gates that are infrequently used.

Pool Alarm

A pool alarm detects when an object enters the pool & sounds an alarm to alert adults. Pool alarms that sense underwater displacement generally perform best. Look for pool alarms with remote alarm receivers, so the alarm can be heard inside the house.

Door / Gate Alarm 

Especially important for pools where the house itself forms one side of the pool fence. In these situations, the doors leading from the house to the pool should be protected with alarms that produce a sound when the door is opened.

Pool Lift

This is a helpful aid for swimmers with physical challenges, the elderly & those recuperating from injury or illness. A Pool Lift offers safe, convenient access to the pool for exercise, therapy & recreation.

Safety Signs

Safety pool rules should be conspicuously posted by the pool. Make sure swimmers are familiar with them, and enforce them consistently.

Rescue Equipment

A shepherd’s crook or Coast-Guard approved life preserver ring should be kept poolside, in the event of a drowning emergency.


Many inground pool owners have stepped up to an SVRS (Safety Vacuum Release System), which will automatically shut off the pool pump & sound an alarm if a blockage is detected.

Safety Cover

During the off-season when the pool is closed, a Safety Cover can help prevent accidental submersion if people or animals onto the cover. While a Safety Cover will add to the protection of children, it should not be used in lieu of a solid pool fence.

Pool Safety Tips / When the Pool is Open

Some “Layers of Protection” involve procedures or advance preparations – and typically cost nothing. Here’s a few examples:

Safe Supervision

  • There’s no substitute for competent ADULT supervision – never leave your children alone in or near the pool (not even for a moment), and always keep your eyes on the pool.
  • Discuss pool safety with your children often – it could help save a life!
  • Practice “touch supervision” with children younger than 5 years – meaning that the supervising adult should always remain within an arm’s length of the children.

Safe Training

  • Anyone watching young children around a pool should know CPR and how to perform a rescue if needed. Contact your local YMCA or Red Cross office for information on classes.
  • Learn how to swim. Children should be enrolled early in swimming lessons or a program to familiarize them with the water. Check your local YMCA, Parks & Recreation department or other local programs near your area.

Safe Equipment

  • Keep a charged portable telephone by the pool, along with posted emergency contact numbers.
  • Use only USCG approved vests, not air-filled “floaties”, swimmies or water-wings.
  • Know where your Pool pump’s cut-off switch is, and clearly mark it.
  • Install a safety line across an inground pool to mark the deep end area.

Safe Practices

  • Store all pool chemicals, cleansers, and accessories safely and securely in appropriate areas.
  • Mark the depths of an inground pool at various points around the perimeter.
  • Serve food and beverages in non-breakable containers in the pool area.
  • Get out of the pool at the first sign of a thunderstorm.
  • Anyone who has consumed alcohol or any drugs should not use the pool.
  • Consult a physician prior to swimming or using a spa if you are taking any mediation regularly.

Safe Diving

  • Know the depth of any body of water – including an inground pool, prior to diving.
  • Don’t dive into above ground pools; they are too shallow.
  • Don’t dive from the side of an inground pool – enter the water feet first.
  • Dive only from the end of the diving board and not from the sides.
  • Dive with your hands in front of you and “steer up” upon entering the water.
  • Don’t dive if you have been using alcohol or drugs.

Pool Safety Tips / When the Pool is Closed

Here’s a few helpful safety tips for when swim time is over:

  • A favorite toy left near the water can be a very strong attraction for a child. Store all toys & playthings away from the pool after pool time is over so they aren’t tempted to venture back to the pool and reach into the water for it.
  • After children are done swimming, secure the pool so they can’t get back into it.
  • Lock doors and windows leading to the pool.

Get the Kids Involved!

Not only should children be made aware of the rules of the pool, they can also actively help maintain a safe swimming environment. The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals, APSP suggests an easy acronym to help us all remember the importance of pool S-A-F-E-T-Y:

More than just a good idea, competent adult supervision is a must

A is for “ALERT”
Pay attention, play smart

F is for “FREE”
Be substance-FREE for safety’s sake

E is for “EMERGENCY” Procedures
Get training & education – be prepared!

T is for “TEACHING”
No one is ever too young or too old to learn more about pool safety

Y is for “YOU”
By thinking about safety all the time, you are being a responsible pool owner and user!

Ultimately, it’s your decision to choose how best to protect the swimmers who use your pool… my best overall suggestion is to be informed, be safe & have fun!