Swimming Pool Safety: Do Fence It In

Gate The Pool

Today, as I write this, it is 93 degrees here in Washington, DC, and very warm in much of the rest of the country. This Friday, weather.com com says it’s going to be 95 in Kansas City, 98 in Little Rock and 92 in Houston.

We are all looking for ways to keep cool. And many of us are daydreaming about a cool swimming pool.

Safe Kids has spent time this summer educating parents and policymakers alike on how to keep kids safe while having fun around water in our report, “Keeping Kids Safe in and Around Water: Exploring Misconceptions That Lead to Drowning.” The study was made possible with support from Nationwide’s Make Safe Happen program. One of our strong messages was the importance of maintaining effective barriers and fencing around home pools as well as pools at apartment complexes and condo developments. We feel state laws should mandate that.

And here’s why: According to data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, one in ten child drownings in pools happen when a child figures out how to get through or around pool fences. In the U.S., more than 220 kids under age five drown in pools every year. Small kids are curious and clever explorers, and their sharp eyes are good at finding ways to investigate “cool things.” And what’s cooler than a pool of water? But risky too.  

We heard the story of a Virginia Beach man who had an above-the-ground pool in his backyard. The fence around it had a hole large enough for a child to crawl through. Missing from her grandmother’s eyes for 20 minutes, a two-year-old girl from a neighboring home was found drowned in the pool and pronounced dead at the hospital. Broken-hearted, the home’s owner broke down the pool piece by piece with a sledgehammer.

We must work hard to avoid such tragedies.

What can you do?

  • If you have a backyard pool, make sure there’s effective fencing/barriers all the way around it.
  • If a neighbor’s pool is not protected by fencing, talk to them about it.
  • Policymakers should make sure the housing codes in their community and county have strong laws requiring fencing laws. If not, or if the code, is weak, make it stronger. The International Swimming Pool and Spa Code is a good guide for what local laws and codes should be.
  • Local health departments should have vigilant enforcement programs for swimming pool safety laws.
  • Always be a water watcher