Are you pool-safe?

An alarming increase in pool drownings has put the spotlight on swimming pool safety. According to a new report from the Lifesaving Society, private pool drownings in Ontario in 1998 more than doubled from the previous year.

Nineteen people died in private pools in 1998, more than the previous two years combined.

Home pool owners should note that of the 19 deaths in private pools, 16 were in backyard pools and only three were in apartment buildings or motels. When you consider the heavy use that apartment and hotel pools get, it’s clear that home pool owners should take a long, hard look at their own set-up.

Stay within arm’s reach

The sad truth is that the majority of home pool deaths involve toddlers or young children. Barbara Byers, public education director for the Lifesaving Society, notes that what is really frightening is just how little time it takes for these tragedies to happen.

"In the drownings with toddlers," she says, "most often they were simply playing near a pool and fell in when their caregivers turned their backs for a few seconds, or a door or gate was left open and the toddler
ventured towards the pool wiout anyone aware of the situation. Water is like a magnet to small children, and they often make little noise when they tumble into a pool."

The Lifesaving Society has launched a campaign to try to reduce the number of pool deaths among toddlers. The key message: "If you’re not within arm’s reach you’ve gone too far."

Pool tips

The society offers these tips for pool-owners and users:
  • Never leave a child alone in on or near water–whether it’s a backyard pool, wading pool, bathtub or a lake. The drowning process can take as little as 10 seconds.

  • Pool owners should ensure that fences enclose all sides of a pool, not just three sides required by municipal law. Keep a close eye on sliding and patio doors.

  • Ensure doors are locked and put an alarm on the door to be absolutely sure.

  • Ensure all gates have a self-closing latch and that gates are locked to keep children out of the pool area when it is not in use.

  • Keep safety equipment around the pool easily accessible, including a reaching pole, a ring buoy or other floating objects that can be thrown to someone in need. Also, keep a cordless phone nearby for emergencies.

There is some good news in the Lifesaving Society’s Drowning Report. New statistics show that while backyard pool drowning have increased, drownings overall are on a downward trend.