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RISMEDIA, May 18, 2010—Water is an enticement to kids big and little. Remember that cool, refreshing, inviting swimming pool just calling your name? That siren song plays out millions of times over for children all across the country. It’s that time of year again, and people are pulling out swimsuits and stocking up on sunscreen.

With that in mind, pool owners will want to make backyard swimming pools safe havens for children. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, each year, about 260 children under five drown in swimming pools. To help protect your family, be sure to take the following steps.

Use Layers of Protection
To prevent swimming pool drownings, layers of protection are essential. Place barriers completely around the pool, closely supervise young children, and be prepared in case of emergency.

First and foremost, 100% supervision is the foundation of child safety. There are multiple cases in which a child was left unattended for very short periods of time and those brief moments were enough for a child to land in dangerous or deadly circumstances. While no mechanical device will ever replace vigilant supervision, proper pool barriers can prove to be an aid in barring children from unsafe situations.

There are two distinct configurations for pool barriers:
-Complete: A complete configuration entirely closes the pool. This type of configuration is the easiest to secure. It is the preferred arrangement from a safety point of view. However, most backyard pools are not configured as complete barriers.
-Partial: A pool that is partially enclosed uses the house to form a segment of the barrier. This is the more common configuration for existing pools. From a safety point of view, this configuration introduces a huge vulnerability–the house to the pool.

An effective barrier must keep children from getting through, over, under or around it. While local codes and requirements may vary, the following tips provide good guidance.

A pool fence should be at least four feet tall. In addition, it should be designed so that it is not climbable –
-There should be no footholds to climb
-Horizontal members should be at least 45 inches apart
-Chain link fences should have only small openings – no part of the diamond shaped openings should be larger than 1¾ inches

The verticals should have spaces no more than four inches wide, to prevent a child from squeezing through. This is a standard dimension we are used to for guard rails on decks etc. In addition, the gap at the bottom should be less than four inches.

The barrier must be continuous. Many backyard swimming pools have barriers that include shrubs or other contours that are easily bypassed by children.

The gate through the barrier should have the following features:
-Opens out. If the gate is closed but has not latched properly, a child leaning on the gate from outside the pool area will cause the gate to latch rather than swing open.
-Self closing and self latching. The gate through the barrier is the weak link in the barrier system. Often the gate gets left open. This is the reason for the self closing and self latching requirement. This system should be maintained in good condition.
-Latch out of reach of children. Having the latch out of reach is effective but not a guarantee. Children may move a chair into position and get the latch open. Ideally, the latch should have a locking mechanism.

There are also other devices that can supplement the safety strategy for a backyard pool:

Automatic Pool Safety Cover
An automatic pool safety cover is a retractable cover for the pool that completely covers and secures the pool. An individual could stand on it, and it would support his or her weight.

An alternative to door alarm system
The automatic pool safety cover can be used as an alternative to the door alarm system where the house makes up a segment of the barrier. This would be an effective solution where there are multiple access points to the pool area from the house.

Water Disturbance Sensor
There are a number of products on the market that are designed to alarm if there is a disturbance in the pool such as a child falling into the pool. There are two general categories—sensors that respond to surface waves and sensors that respond to subsurface disturbances.

Most of the surface sensors on the market are simple devices that float on the surface of the water. Wave action triggers the sensor and the alarm sounds. These are prone to false alarms as they may be triggered by wind or rain. The sensors that respond to subsurface disturbances are much less prone to false alarm from wind and rain. They tend to be more reliable as well. In addition, the subsurface sensors can be used with a solar cover while the surface wave systems cannot.

Play time at the pool is an enduring favorite summer after summer. Using these tips will help you–and your kids—stay safe and swimming all summer long.

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