By Gail Botten
Backyard pools can be an oasis of tranquility during the hot summer months and the perfect venue for gathering with family and friends. Unfortunately, they can also be dangerous.
Drowning is one of the leading causes of unintentional death for Canadian children ages one to four, with 38 per cent of these drownings occurring in backyard swimming pools. For every toddler who dies from drowning, there are an estimated three to five additional ‘near drowning’ incidents, which might require hospitalization and can result in varying degrees of brain damage. Each year, approximately 400 tragic and avoidable water-related fatalities occur across Canada, more than half of which occur during the summer months. Toddlers and men between the ages of 15 and 44 are at the greatest risk of drowning.
While these statistics may seem alarming, they shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying your backyard pool. By taking some important precautions, you can help ensure a safe and fun backyard experience for everyone—and provide yourself with peace of mind as a pool owner.
Establish a Set of Rules
A good place to start when implementing a backyard safety protocol for your pool is to institute a set of rules by which all family members must abide. Also remember that family members won’t be the only ones enjoying your pool. When friends or other guests arrive for a get-together, be sure to outline the rules for them as well.
You should develop specific guidelines based on your individual property and needs, and once you’re satisfied with your set of rules, consider posting them somewhere in the backyard to keep them top of mind.
Keep Your Eyes Open
When it comes to pool safety, providing adequate supervision for all swimmers is essential. This supervision must be constant and vigilant. Unfortunately, it takes only seconds for a child to disappear from sight, so an adult should keep watch over any children in the pool at all times. Sadly, in almost half of the infant and toddler drownings over the past 10 years, the victims were alone. It is essential that parents and caregivers stay alert and focused at all times when children have access to any body of water.
If you have or will be hosting children younger than five years old, or older children you know are weak or non-swimmers, it is a good idea to have them wear a life jacket. This will not only be reassuring to you, it will also keep the kids at the surface, making supervision much easier.
Also remember that large inground, above-ground and onground pools are not the only drowning hazard kids face in the backyard. A baby can drown in as little as 25 mm (1 in.) of water. For this reason, it is important to empty portable toddler pools completely after each use.