Swimming season is not far off. Sadly, with it comes swimming pool tragedies, especially with young children. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), about 300 children under the age of five, drown in a swimming pool each year, usually a backyard pool. More than 2,000 others in the same age group are treated for injuries. At the time of the incident, most victims were being supervised by one or both parents. Forty-six percent of the victims were last seen in the house; 23 percent were last seen in the yard or on the porch or patio; and 31 percent were in or around the pool before the accident. In all, 69 percent of the children were not expected to be at or in the pool, yet they were found in the water.
On a sunny afternoon last June, a South Carolina couple and their four children were attending a party/cook-out with friends. After lunch, a group of children went out to play. At one point, the couple’s oldest daughter retrieved the key to the pool gate to go swimming. When she approached the pool, the young girl found her three-year-old twin brothers at the bottom. She ran back to the group of adults, who called 911 and attempted CPR until paramedics arrived. Sadly, one of the boys was pronounced dead at the hospital. His twin brother died the next day. The coroner believes the boys were likely submerged in the water for 15 – 20 minutes before their sister discovered them.
Reports stated that the above-ground pool at the home was enclosed by a fence which required a key to be unlocked. It was as deep as 4 feet in parts; the area where the boys were found was about 3 feet 8 inches. So, how did the twins get in? It is believed that they either crawled under a gap in the fence or climbed it.
The family told authorities the boys were just learning how to swim and had always used swim aids when in the water.
A backyard pool can be great fun for the entire family, but it is important for pool owners to be responsible. If a homeowner does not take appropriate measures to prevent unwanted or unsupervised individuals from gaining access to the pool, they can end up assuming liability if an accident occurs.
Stories like this should be a reminder to all parents that during the summer months there must be a heightened awareness on pool safety. There is no one solution to preventing a child from drowning in your pool; it takes multiple layers of protection — education, awareness and remaining vigilant at all times — to keep your child safe, and it is never too early to prepare.
Here are a few tips from the American Red Cross:
- Secure your pool with appropriate barriers. Completely surround your pool with a 4-feet high fence or barrier with a self-closing, self-latching gate.
- Place a safety cover on the pool when not in use and remove any ladders or steps used for access.
- Consider installing a pool alarm that goes off if anyone enters the pool.
- Do a pre-season inspection and maintenance check. Look for gaps in fencing, damaged drain covers etc.
- Keep children under active supervision at all times. That means never leaving children alone in or near the pool, even if they know how to swim.
- Designate a responsible person to watch the water when people are in the pool, and never allow anyone to swim alone.
- An adult should always be within arm’s length of children younger than five. Have young or inexperienced swimmers wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
- Ensure everyone in the home knows how to swim well by enrolling them in age-appropriate water orientation and learn-to-swim courses from the Red Cross.
- Remember that swim lessons don’t make kids, especially younger ones, drown proof.
- Establish and enforce rules and safe behaviors, such as “no diving,” “stay away from drain covers,” “swim with a buddy” and “walk please.”
- Ensure everyone in the home knows how to respond to emergencies by having appropriate safety equipment and a phone nearby. Taking water safety, first aid and CPR courses is also important.
- Remove all toys from the pool after use so children aren’t tempted to reach for them.
Before you break out the bathing suit and sunscreen, remember these safety tips to help ensure that you and your family will have a safe and enjoyable summer ahead.
Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.