I wasn’t looking for a pool when I was house hunting. The amount of houses on the market in my price range was limited, but surprisingly, two or three of the houses available had inground pools.
I ended up closing on one of those houses with a pool. It’s a big pool! 22 x 45 feet and approximately 40,000 gallons. When I bought the house, I knew absolutely nothing about being a pool owner, but I wanted that house.
The previous owners were nice enough to write out notes about the pool and leave them on the kitchen counter for me to find when I moved in. I also ran into them when we went in to sign papers and they gave me a lot of information that day as well.
After that, I was on my own to continue researching and learning how to care for a pool and how to keep everyone safe in and around the pool.
Doing all of this research while moving in and getting the house in order was time consuming and actually prevented me from using the pool until the end of that pool season.
To save you some time and get you in your pool faster, here are my safety tips for keeping your children and pets safe around your backyard pool.
What Should You Know as a Pool Owner?
As a pool owner, you have some extra responsibilities to keep yourself and anyone who will use your pool safe. The pool area must be kept safe and all home occupants and visitors need to be closely monitored to be sure that no accidents happen.
Accidents can happen even when the pool isn’t in use. In fact, it is more dangerous when no one is supposed to be swimming. That’s when a child or pet might wander and slip in the pool when no one is looking.
If a child is ever missing, check the pool first. Drowning victims are usually unable to call for help, so don’t think they aren’t out there just because you don’t hear them. Check the pool first, every second counts.
Along with keeping the pool area safe both when in use and when not in use, the pool owner should also know CPR, have rescue equipment in close proximity to the pool, and make sure that safe practices are always taken in and around the pool.
Rescue equipment should include a first aid kit, a flotation device, a fully charged cell phone, and scissors (in case hair or clothing needs to be cut).
Accidental drownings are the responsibility of the pool owner, even if they have a “Swim at your own risk” sign. Do not rely on signs and rules alone. Take all measures possible to make sure that accidents don’t happen.
How Often Do Backyard Pool Accidents Happen?
In the United States, the average rate of death caused by unintentional drowning is 3,536 per year, or 10 deaths per day according to the CDC. Drowning is the leading cause of death in children aged 1 to 4, aside from death caused by birth defects. Most of these drownings occur at residential swimming pools.
Supervising pool time for all members of the family will greatly reduce the risk of drowning in your backyard pool.
How to Keep Children and Pets from Getting into Your Pool Unsupervised
There are three main ways to keep children and pets from getting into the pool unsupervised. For maximum prevention, you should have a pool fence, a pool alarm, and a safety cover.
The first step to keeping your pool safe is to construct a fence with locking gates around the pool to keep children and pets out of the pool when they should not be in it. It’s best to have a self-closing and latching gate that has a latch higher than a young child can reach.
Pool fences should be at least 4 feet tall. Keep furniture away from the fence so that it doesn’t create a way to easily climb over the fence. You may also want to consider fencing with vertical bars to make it harder to climb.
Always keep the fence locked when the pool is not in use and never leave children or pets unattended around the pool, even for a minute. The majority of pool accidents happen when “they were only alone for 5 minutes.”
I don’t have children, but I do have a dog who is occasionally around the pool with me. When I need to leave the area for a minute, I tell my dog “let’s go” and she follows me outside of the pool fence so I can close the gate until I come back.
Another option for keeping your family safe is a pool alarm like Lifebuoy.
Pool alarms alert you of a person or animal falling into the pool water. The buoy communicates with an alarm inside the house via a RF signal so even if you’re inside, as soon as it detects the splash of a body falling in the water, it will trigger a loud alarm so you can run to the rescue. To be extra safe, use a pool alarm in addition to a pool fence.
Don’t worry, you can turn the alarm off when you are using the pool and it will turn back on automatically when you’re done swimming. The Lifebuoy can even be controlled with your smartphone.
In areas with cold winters, you’ll want to close your pool for the winter months. When it comes time to close your pool, a safety cover will secure your pool to prevent small children and pets from being able to fall in.
Safety covers can also be used during swimming season. Whenever the pool is not in use you can put the cover on to protect your family and others.
Safety covers create a flat surface at ground level that floats above the water. The covers are secured to the decking around the pool via brass anchors and stainless steel springs. Safety covers come in multiple options, including solid material, mesh, or sun blocking mesh.
The ultimate trifecta of safety is to implement all three of the above safety features.
Teaching Children How to Swim
Swimming classes are recommended for all children who will be in or near the water. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends children take formal swimming classes after their fourth birthday. This is the age when children reach the developmental ability to learn to stay afloat.
At younger ages (down to 6 months), you can start your baby or toddler in the water by holding them in your arms and letting them splash in the water.
By the time they are toddlers, they can do a little more in the water. With support, they can start to float, kick their legs, and blow bubbles in the water.
If you are not holding on to them, they should be wearing a life jacket. Life jackets are much safer than any flotation device filled with air, including water wings. This is because the air could deflate and leave the child defenseless. Of course, you will be there to keep an eye on your child and keep them afloat.
Children can become very good swimmers, but they should always be supervised when they are swimming, even if they are fantastic swimmers.
When your older children are able to swim further than an arm’s length away from you, it’s important to reinforce rules about staying in the shallow end of the pool and keep away from certain areas, such as the skimmers.
Any time you are done swimming, remove pool toys from the pool so that they won’t tempt children.
Teaching Pets How to Swim and How to Get Out of the Pool
When you have a dog and a pool, you’ll hear this phrase a lot – “all dogs are natural swimmers.” Sorry, but this is not true. Even if your dog can swim, he or she can panic if they fall into the pool or get fatigued if they can’t find their way out.
This dog was lucky enough to have a friend there to save them:
Scenes like this happen all the time. Assuming dogs are natural swimmers just doesn’t cut it.
Certain breeds are more cut out for swimming than others, like retrievers and dogs with “water” in their name. Even then, there are exceptions to every rule. Some dogs outside of these categories could potentially be great swimmers and some water dogs could be afraid of water.
Finding a swimming class for dogs is most likely not going to be as easy as it is for children.
The best thing you can do is use a life vest on your dog, like this one, and patiently encourage them into the water. Let them get used to the water in a shallow area where they can touch the bottom, like on the top step.
Use plenty of praise for being in or near the water and for any additional steps they take towards swimming. This process can take some time. Be patient, take breaks, and try again tomorrow if needed.
Aside from keeping them afloat, a doggy life vest can help them learn to swim by supporting them into a proper swimming position so that they can focus on paddling forward instead of holding themselves up. Eventually, even if you take the vest off, they should be used to the form they used while in the vest.
Once you have them swimming, train them to find the steps to get out of the pool. This is important so they know where to go when they are getting tired.
Teaching your dog where to exit the pool can be done by tossing floating toys in the water and having them fetch and swim back to you, while you are at the exit of the pool. After some practice with getting in and out of the pool, they should be pretty comfortable finding their way out whenever they need to.
Never leave a dog unattended in or near a pool. Always be there to keep an eye on them and secure the pool when you are not around.
How to Keep Everyone Safe During Pool Time
Before anyone enters the pool, you should have the rescue equipment listed above, a posted sign of pool rules, a sign showing how to perform CPR along with a list of emergency numbers, and flotation devices.
Remove tripping hazards from around the pool area. Make sure to implement the “no running around the pool” rule to prevent stumbles as well.
You will also need to keep the pool water itself safe. You can find a great guide to balancing pool chemistry at Trouble Free Pool.
Keeping pool water chemistry safe not only fights algae and bacteria, but it also protects your pool and equipment. And did you know that swimming in unbalanced pool water could kill you? It’s a rare event, but there is an amoeba that can enter through your nose while swimming that can actually eat your brain!
In addition to keeping the water balanced, you’ll need to make sure to keep your water circulating enough each day to prevent mosquitoes from breeding on the water. Circulating the water also helps prevent algae growth.
One last note on water safety is to make sure that children and pets are not drinking large amounts of pool water. This is pretty common sense, but the reasoning might not be what you may think.
Generally, residential pools do not have dangerous levels of chlorine if a small amount of water is swallowed. Chlorine poisoning is possible from swallowing too much pool water, but this is more common in the chlorine levels of a public pool rather than a backyard pool.
Water intoxication can occur from taking in too much water. This is a good reason to avoid partaking in an infant swimming class that involves submerging the baby’s head under water. It is believed that children under 2 will automatically hold their breath underwater, however they will still swallow water.
Water intoxication is also a threat for dogs that are retrieving toys in the water or taking in too much water while they are swimming.
In fact, dogs have died from water intoxication even from “biting” at water being sprayed from a hose or sprinkler. More information on water intoxication in dogs can be found in this article from Healthy Pets by Mercola.
Keeping Small Animals from Dying in the Pool
One thing that you may not be aware of until you have a pool is that small animals will drown in your pool at an unfortunate rate. I have found dead birds, a frog, and even a ground mole floating in my pool.
The first summer I had a pool I actually loved seeing my two frog friends swimming in the pool. I had a big frog and a little frog that hung out in the pool a lot. My dad came over to swim while I was at work and he would tell me that the big frog was swimming laps with him.
Imagine how devastated I was at the end of the season when I found big frog dead in the bottom of my skimmer basket!
I had seen him climb out of the shallow end before and get back in, so I didn’t think he needed any help getting out of the pool. After I found his body, I did a bit of research on how to prevent this from happening again.
It turns out that frogs do have difficulty getting out of pools. In my research, I found the perfect easy solution to help frogs and other small animals help themselves out of the pool. It’s called Frog Log.
Unfortunately, birds didn’t seem to be able to find their way to the Frog Log, but I did not find any other dead animals in my pool for an entire summer that I had two Frog Logs in my pool. The ground mole that I mentioned died when I didn’t have the Frog Logs out, so I know now that I need to put them in the day I open the pool each year.
Not only is finding dead animals in your pool sad and disgusting, it also brings bacteria into your pool that you do not want in your water. If you do find a dead animal in your pool, you will want to shock your pool after removing the dead animal, then wait for the chlorine to return to safe swimming levels before anyone gets back in the pool.
As you can see, there is a lot of responsibility when it comes to being a pool owner. Follow the tips above and always use safe practices to keep children and pets safe in your pool.
Now that you know how to keep everyone safe, go have some fun and enjoy your backyard paradise!
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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