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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, July 21, 2018 1:00 am

Before taking a dip, be sure your pool is safe

Daniel Bortz | Washington Post

On a sizzling summer day, there's nothing better than taking a refreshing dip in a swimming pool. But that private oasis in your backyard can be a big safety hazard for kids.

However, there are precautions you can take to protect your children while still letting them have fun.

Build a pool fence. Becky Turpin, director of home and community safety at the NSC, says the best safety measure homeowners can take is to install a fence around their pool. This forms a barrier that will keep kids out of the water when you're not outside to supervise them.

Install an alarm system. Want to add an extra layer of protection to keep kids out of the water when you're not around? Install alarms that alert you when gates to the pool are opened. Also, consider buying an underwater swimming pool alarm system such as the Pool Patrol Model PA-30 ($234.95 on Amazon), which uses motion sensors to detect wave activity and alert you when anyone jumps or falls into the pool.

Ditch the diving board. “Diving boards are huge culprits for pool injuries,” warns Mark Montegani, owner of Pool Heaven in Huntington Beach, California.

Have rescue equipment and a first aid kit nearby. Make sure you have a life ring, rescue tube or life hook (also called a shepherd's hook) that you can use to pull someone from the water to safety. This rescue equipment should be stored near the pool in a clearly marked and accessible area. You'll also want to have a first aid kit on hand that's stocked with all essentials.

Inspect the pool area daily for slip hazards. Make sure floats, tubes, toys and cleaning equipment are stored away from the water when they're not in use.

Safely store chemicals. Pool chemicals help protect swimmers by killing disease-causing germs in the water, but they can also lead to injury when mixed improperly or not handled using protective gear, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's why Montegani says pool chemicals should always be stored in a locked, well-ventilated area.

Inspect drain covers. Drain covers can be death traps – literally. After a 7-year-old girl drowned because of the suction pressure from an underwater drain in a hot tub, Congress passed the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act in 2007 to provide basic safety standards for the nation's public pools. Although the law doesn't apply to residential pools, your drain covers “should be rounded covers, and there should be no cracks or missing screws,” Turpin says.

Learn CPR. Adults who have private swimming pools should be trained in CPR, Turpin says. A number of organizations offer CPR certification courses.

Set pool rules. Educate your loved ones on what pool conduct is and is not acceptable. You might even create a list of “official” pool rules.

Teach kids how to swim. “It's never too early or too late to learn how to swim,” Turpin says. Many swimming classes are offered year-round. (Private lessons are worth the investment if your kid has trouble learning how to swim.) However, Turpin says, “Knowing how to swim doesn't make someone drown-proof, but it's an important skill that helps keep you safe when you're in the water.”