How do I keep my kids safe at the pool?

Pool Safety Precautions
It's all right to have fun at the pool, but make sure adult supervisors cut down on dangerous horseplay.
It's all right to have fun at the pool, but make sure adult supervisors cut down on dangerous horseplay.
David De Lossy/Digital Vision/Thinkstock

Trouble can brew in your own backyard -- or your neighbor's -- when it comes to backyard pools. To keep the lid on trouble, try these pre-emptive measures:

  • Supervise kids constantly and vigilantly. This is the absolute, essential rule for children's safety. Death by drowning can be frighteningly swift and silent. Ideally, one adult should be in the pool, with another within sight and hearing, to detect any sign that a child may be in trouble.
  • Keep a clean pool. Learn how to use disinfectants and how to check for contaminants in water. Remind swimmers not to use your pool if they're sick or have been sick recently, especially if they suffered from diarrhea.
  • Discourage biting and stinging insects. Standing water is a favorite mosquito breeding ground; don't let water accumulate on pool covers or near the pool. Keep food and drinks, especially sugary stuff, covered when not serving to avoid attracting bees. Remember that insect repellents, if used, must be reapplied after swimming.
  • Remove water toys when the pool isn't in use. Children may fall into the pool while playing with or retrieving the toys.
  • Remove climbable objects surrounding aboveground pools when not in use. This includes not only pool steps and ladders, but any object a resourceful child might use to gain access, such as lawn chairs and riding toys.
  • Learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and first-aid techniques. Opportunities to learn life-saving skills abound. Besides traditional classes, you can buy CPR kits for at-home learning or download training apps for your smartphone. Check with an area hospital or nearest chapter of the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross for details.
  • Teach kids how and when to use 9-1-1. They'll need to know their full name and address and how to describe the emergency. Contact your local police or fire department to learn about teaching programs. Some emergency service providers give lessons at schools and safety fairs, letting kids make practice calls.
  • Keep a cordless or cell phone on hand. A waterproof cell phone case gives added protection.

Faithfully following these rules is one layer of protection, but it can still leave safety gaps. The next page describes equipment that helps to fill them.