Irresponsible adults and unsupervised young children and swimming pools just do not mix well at all! As we all know, a toddler can drown in a half-full bucket of water or even a shallow water feature. These are tragedies that over the years have hit the headlines and we certainly do not want your family to be part of one of those heart-wrenching incidents.
As warmer weather and our swimming season approach we must be mindful that no matter how blissful the prospect of splashing around in our residential or public swimming pool may be we have to learn the rules – the safety rules – that are part and parcel of spending time enjoying ourselves. In this article, we will list those rules so that you can teach them to your children, but more importantly, that you as a parent or caregiver can set the example for them to follow.
- Walk, don’t run
- Do not dive in the shallow end or into an above-ground pool
- No horseplay
- Beware of drains and covers
- Never swim alone
- Be sun-wise
- Respect pool safety and other equipment
- When storms arrive, leave the water
- Be first-aidsavvy
- Listen to instructions/obey pool rules
WALK, DON’T RUN
Slipping on a wet surface while running wild can result in serious injuries or even be life-threatening. A simple drill to learn and one easily taught, is that people should never, ever run near a swimming pool. The mantra of WALK, DON’T RUN cannot be repeated often enough, these three words make up the very first and most important pool safety rule.
DO NOT DIVE INTO THE SHALLOW END OR INTO AN ABOVE-GROUND POOL
This is an obvious but often ignored swimming pool safety rule. There have been hundreds of diving accidents the world over, some of which have resulted in paraplegia or even been fatal. Dive into the pool only when you are certain it is deep enough, and never dive from the surroundings into an above-ground pool.
As fun, as it may seem to be for you at the time, jumping on each other in the swimming pool or holding anyone’s head underwater, is not fun for the person who is being jumped on or held underwater! Drowning accidents are an all too common result of over-exuberant horseplay.
NEVER SWIM ALONE
In scuba diving circles, the golden rule is to never dive without a ‘buddy’ who you can call on should you get into trouble when underwater. Common sense, isn’t it? The same applies to swimming. No matter how accomplished the swimmer may be no one should ever swim alone. And especially children should absolutely never be left unsupervised in a pool. The chances of swimming pool drowning accidents are more likely to happen when the victim is alone or unsupervised.
While your body might not feel overheated because you are enveloped in such nice cool water you are still very susceptible to sunburn. There are first-class water-resistant sunscreen products readily available on the market these days so make sure you are always adequately sunscreen protected when enjoying your fun in the pool water. It is also especially important that children wear appropriate poolside clothing when out of the water and relaxing next to the pool. And hey, mom, dad and caregivers, this applies to you too!
RESPECT POOL SAFETY AND OTHER EQUIPMENT
Make sure that pool safety equipment is well maintained, kept readily available for immediate use when the need arises and it should never be used as playthings/toys. Hang a ring buoy in nearby shade – we don’t want it to become brittle in the sun and frequently check that it isn’t invaded by ants, bees, wasps and other nasties. Have a Shepherd’s crook nearby (this is a rounded arm-like attachment for your leaf scoop pole) that you can use to drag a distressed swimmer to safety. Make sure your first aid kit is always handy.
Check that your pool fencing is stable and its gate closes securely; that your tarpaulin-like pool cover has not perished or the webbing of your net-type cover is still strong; that the electrics (for example to your underwater light) is not corroded; that the ladder and rails in the pool and your patio furniture are not rusting, have jagged edges or loose nuts and screws.
WHEN STORMS ARRIVE, LEAVE THE WATER
When you see a storm approaching, leave the water immediately, move to a safe place, and stay out of the swimming pool for at least half an hour after the last lightning strike is seen or thunder heard. Remember that lightning can suddenly strike apparently from nowhere, even from a clear blue sky.
BE FIRST-AID SAVVY
Parents and caregivers should know the basics of CPR and first aid. In these days of cell phones it is easy to always have a fully charged phone next to you but when you are responsible for the lives of people in front of you, don’t spend time concentrating on your phone. Keep your attention on your charges at all times. Teach children to immediately run/call for the help of an adult if they see anyone having difficulty in the water.
LISTEN TO INSTRUCTIONS/OBEY POOL RULES
This is particularly important when you visit different public swimming pools. A municipal pool usually has a lifeguard or two in attendance and they are rightly in charge of your behaviour in ‘their’ pool, so obey their instructions and follow their pool rules. They are simply concerned for your safety, that’s it! If you are staying in a hotel with its own swimming pool for example the management usually has put up signs giving you their do’s and don’ts; so follow their rules and all will be well!
Finally, the MOST IMPORTANT swimming pool safety tips are LEARN TO SWIM and BE COMFORTABLE IN WATER. If you don’t have the time to teach your children to swim yourself, make sure they go for swimming lessons at a swimming school. Remember, even if you don’t live close to a water body, you WILL end up near it at one time or another. So be prepared!