The sale of single residence pools is on the rise, as more than six million Americans own a pool. Sadly, the annual number of drowning deaths (300) and submersion injuries requiring emergency room treatment (2,000) of children under the age of five is steadily increasing as well. Sixty to ninety percent of child drowning deaths occur in home swimming pools – half of those at the child’s residence.
Government regulation regarding private swimming pools in Pennsylvania occurs at the municipal level. Parents should contact their local officials to ensure that they are in compliance, especially with ordinances regarding barriers (fences, gates, etc.).
Frustratingly, most manufacturers of pools provide little more than stickers warning against diving. According to Garrett Vogan of Country Pools and Spas, Inc., other than the addition of buoys to indicate the transition from shallow to deep water, a company such as his is not required to incorporate any other additional safety features during in-ground pool installation. Fencing is also required for in-ground pools.
Physical barriers and safety devices for pools have become very sophisticated, but are not fool-proof. Among some of the most successful are pool covers that can easily support the weight of an adult, pool gate alarms, bracelets that set off alarms when wet and motion sensors that are placed in the water to detect the presence of foreign objects. All of these items offer an extra measure of protection and comfort, but Vogan reminds parents that devices are no substitute for adult supervision.
“They’ve got to be there,” he says.
The responsibility for educating themselves and making their home pool environment safe is up to parents. This essentially pertains not only to parents who own pools, but also to parents whose children swim in others’ backyard pools.