Portable Pool Safety: Keeping Kids Safe in the Backyard

During the hot summer, parents are always looking for ways to keep their children entertained and cool. While portable pools, which include wading pools, inflatable pools, and soft-sided, self-rising pools, can be fun to play in, many parents don’t realize the potential dangers associated with this type of pool. They somehow seem “safer” because they don’t hold as much water as bigger pools. Sadly, during the summer in the U.S., a child drowns every 5 days in a portable pool. By taking a few precautions, parents and caregivers can help children remain safe as they cool off during hot summer days.

Here are way to prevent unauthorized access to pools to help keep kids safe:

Empty it.

  • Empty wading pools and smaller soft-sided pools immediately after every use and put them away. Even if your own children aren’t home, a child from the neighborhood could wander into your yard and try to get into a pool if it has water in it.

Block access and fence it.

  • The safest option is to place the pool inside a fenced-in area of the yard. The fencing should:
    – Be non-climbable.
    – Be at least four feet high.
    – Have self-closing and self-latching gates that open away from the pool.
    – Not have any spaces under the fence or between uprights that are more than four inches wide.
    – Remember that the safest type of fencing goes around all 4 sides of the pool. The house should not count as one of the sides of the “fence.”

Lock it.

  • Use door locks and alarms to prevent children from going from the house into the pool area without an adult.

Remove it.

  • If possible, remove steps and ladders leading from the ground to the pool when the pool is not in use and keep these items locked away.
  • Make sure to also take any toys out of the water so children aren’t tempted to try to reach them when you aren’t around.

Enforce swimming rules.

  • Make it a rule that an adult MUST be present whenever any children are in the pool.
  • Give them your full attention. If you are the adult in charge of supervising children in the pool, leave the reading, chores, phone calls, and chats with friends until later. Remember that drowning can be quick, silent and final.
  • Have children take swimming lessons and learn about water safety.
  • Remember that “swimmies,” “arm rings,” and other inflatables can lose air unexpectedly. Don’t rely on these things to keep non-swimmers afloat.

Have fun in the water and remember to put on some sunscreen before you go outside. Learn more about portable pools, here. And, get general water safety tips from Make Safe Happen, here.

Tracy Mehan, MA
Tracy Mehan is the manager of translational research for the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. In this role, she takes injury prevention research out of the journals and into the community. As the mother of a very active 12-year-old boy and an aunt to 21 nieces and nephews, she frequently gets to see firsthand the need for various injury prevention measures. When she isn’t out trying to save the world, you can find her on the basketball court with her son, with her nose in her kindle, or exploring websites on pirate trivia.

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