to Plan For the Unexpected.
CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION Washington, DC 20207 (301)504-0580
In some of
the nation's sunbelt, drowning has been the leading cause of accidental
death in the home of children under 5 years old. The information
below can help parents and caregivers provide young children with
the protection they deserve. Each year, nationwide, more than 300
children under 5 years old drown in residential swimming pools,
usually a pool owned by their family. In addition, more than 2,000
children in that age group are treated in hospital emergency rooms
for submersion injures. Medical costs for submersion victims during
the initial hospitalization alone can be quite high. Costs can range
from an estimated $2,000 for a victim who recovers fully to $80,000
for a victim with severe brain damage. Some severely brain damaged
victims have initial hospital stays in excess of 120 days and expenses
in excess of $150,000. Many communities have enacted safety regulations
governing residential swimming pools -- inground and aboveground.
It's up to parents to comply with these regulations. Apart from
these laws, parents who own pools, can take their own precautions
to reduce the chances of their youngsters accessing the family pool
or spa without adult supervision.
FACTS AND FIGURES ***
are just a few facts uncovered by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety
Commission (CPSC) in a comprehensive study of drowning and submersion
incidents involving children under 5 years old in Arizona, California,
percent of the submersion victims studied by CPSC were between 1
and 3 years old; 65 percent of this group were boys. Toddlers, in
particular, often do something unexpected because their capabilities
* At the time
of the incidents, 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.
incidents involving children usually happen in familiar surroundings.
Sixty-five percent of the incidents happened in a pool owned by
the child's family and 33 percent of the incidents happened in a
pool owned by friends or relatives.
* Pool submersions
involving children happen quickly. A child can drown in the time
it takes to answer a phone. Seventy-seven percent of the victims
had been missing from sight for 5 minutes or less.
depends on rescuing the child quickly and restarting the breathing
process, even while the child is still in the water. Seconds count
in preventing death or brain damage.
* Child drowning
is a silent death. There's no splashing to alert anyone that the
child is in trouble.
barrier recommendations are the result of identifying key parameters
that typically contribute to child drowning in backyard pools. These
recommendations are the minimum steps you can take to make your
home a safe place for your child. Barriers are not childproof, but
they provide layers of protection for a child who strays from supervision.
Barriers give parents additional time to locate a child before the
unexpected becomes a reality. Barriers include a fence or wall,
door alarms for the house, and a power safety cover over the pool.
Barriers also may be used to protect children from accessing hot
tubs and spas. Use the following recommendations as a guide:
fence or other barrier, such as a wall, completely around the pool.
If the house is part of the barrier, the doors leading from the
house to the pool should be protected with an alarm or the pool
should have a power safety cover. Alarm and cover details are below.
* The fence
or other barrier should be at least 4 feet high. It should have
no foot- or handholds that could help a young child to climb it.
fence slats should be less than 4 inches apart to prevent a child
from squeezing through. Use this as a guide when the release mechanism
is located less than 54 inches from the bottom of the gate.
* If horizontal
members are equal to or more than 45 inches apart, vertical spacing
shall not exceed 4 inches. * If the fence is chain link, then no
part of the diamond-shaped opening should be larger than 1-3/4 inches.
* Fence gates
should be self-closing and self-latching. The gate should be well
maintained to close and latch easily. The latch should be out of
a child's reach.
* When the
release mechanism of the self-latching device is less than 54 inches
from the bottom of the gate, the release mechanism for the gate
should be at least 3 inches below the top of the gate on the side
facing the pool. Placing the release mechanism at this height prevents
a young child from reaching over the top of a gate and releasing
the latch. Also, the gate and barrier should have no opening greater
than 1/2 inch within 18 inches of the latch release mechanism. This
prevents a young child from reaching through the gate and releasing
the latch. There are a wide variety of fencing construction materials
available to compliment your house and pool surroundings. Your local
fence company or pool enclosure company can provide you with information
and assist you in making a selection. The weak link in the strongest
and highest fence is a gate that fails to close and latch completely.
For a gate to close completely every time, it must be in proper
DOOR ALARMS ***
* If the house
forms one side of the barrier, then doors leading from the house
to the pool should be protected with alarms that produce an audible
sound when a door is unexpectedly opened.
* Install an
alarm that can be temporarily turned off by an adult for a single
opening of the door by using a keypad or switch that is out of a
child's reach. Battery and electrically powered alarms are available.
The key pad switch can be used by adults who wish to pass through
the door without setting off the alarm. It should be placed high
on all doors leading from the house to the pool. Affordable and
easily installed alarms are available. An alarm signal immediately
tells a parent that a door has been opened.
POWER SAFETY COVERS ***
* Power safety
covers over the pool may be used as an alternative to door alarms.
A power safety cover should meet the requirements of the ASTM pool
cover standard which addresses labeling requirements and performance.
ASTM requires that a cover withstand the weight of two adults and
a child to allow a rescue should an individual fall onto the cover.
The standard also requires quick removal of water from the cover
with a pump. A young child can drown in just inches of water. A
power safety cover is a motor powered barrier that can be placed
over the water area. Motor-driven covers easily open and close over
the pool. When the power safety cover is properly in place over
the pool, it provides a high level of safety for children under
5 years old by inhibiting their access to the water.
* Steps and
ladders leading from the ground to the pool should be secured and
locked, or removed when the pool is not in use.
RULES FOR POOLS ***
babysitters about potential pool hazards to young children and about
the use of protective devices, such as door alarms and latches.
Emphasize the need for constant supervision.
* Never leave
a child unsupervised near a pool. During social gatherings at or
near a pool, appoint a "designated watcher" to protect young children
from pool accidents. Adults may take turns being the "watcher."
When adults become preoccupied, children are at risk.
* If a child
is missing, check the pool first. Seconds count in preventing death
or disability. Go to the edge of the pool and scan the entire pool,
bottom and surface, as well as the pool area.
* Do not allow
a young child in the pool without an adult.
* Do not consider
young children to be drownproof because they have had swimming lessons.
Children must be watched closely while swimming.
* Do not use
flotation devices as a substitute for supervision.
* Learn CPR
(cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Babysitters and other caretakers,
such as grandparents and older siblings, should also know CPR.
* Keep rescue
equipment by the pool. Be sure a telephone is poolside with emergency
numbers posted nearby.
* Remove toys
from in and around the pool when it is not in use. Toys can attract
young children to the pool.
* Never prop
open the gate to a pool barrier.
NOTE: To obtain
detailed barrier recommendations,write:
Pool Barriers,Office of Information & Public Affairs, Washington,