There can be no compromise on pool safety
I have had a dreadful experience of my son nearly drowning. We visited friends and they have a large swimming pool which is not covered. The children were playing around the pool, throwing toys into it and running up & down. We weren’t really worried, as we knew that we were sitting very close to the pool. There we were, 4 adults sitting outside chatting specifically about drowning and pool safety, when I heard a splash. I thought one of the children had thrown a toy in the pool, as they had been throwing the toys in the swimming pool a while back and the splash was soft. We carried on talking, when one of the adults shouted: “Oh my word! Jeadan is in the pool!”
I froze – I could not move. I saw everything in slow motion…the way he went under the water, coming up from underneath the water – gasping for air…then back under the water again. My husband reacted quickly and jumped into the pool and took him out. I ran closer and could see he was struggling to breathe as he must’ve swallowed a lot of water. My immediate reaction was to pat him on the back, and he started coughing up the water that he had swallowed. Only now after this do I understand how 69% of children who drown are under some sort of supervision at the time. This is how quickly it can happen.
Out of 4 adults present at the time, only one heard the splash, and did not react to it. Out of 4 adults present only one noticed my child in the pool. He could so easily have drowned. I can only thank God for saving him – it could’ve been worse!
A child is a 100 times more likely to be killed by a swimming pool than by a loaded firearm. You would be horrified if you see a loaded firearm lying on a table in your house with kids playing around it? Why don’t you have the same reaction when you see an unprotected pool, since we know the pool is a much bigger threat?
Drowning is one of the leading causes of death in children under the age of five, third only to car accident and burns. A swimming pool is a wonderful way for a family to socialise and relax but there is always an inherent danger present. It is every pool owner’s responsibility to ensure that there swimming pool is safely secured to prevent accidents and there are many ways to go about securing a swimming pool: a safety net, a pool fence, a pool cover – Any of these options is worth considering if it means that a child cannot gain access to the pool without adult supervision. Each option has its pros and cons.
The swimming pool safety net was first invented in Zimbabwe in 1972, 42 years ago. Since then the safety net has saved countless lives. It is a simple cost effective way to secure a swimming pool and does not detract from the aesthetic of the pool, still allowing a view of the pool water. Pool safety nets have developed over the years and are generally fitted with a central tension system and float which assists the user to fit and remove the net with minimal effort. A safety net can be operated by one person and should not take more than 3 minutes to remove on an average size pool and no more than 5 minutes to replace. It offers an exceptional degree of safety with zero reported drowning on an installed safety net in over 40 years.
A safety net is a versatile option that can be custom fitted to any size or shape pool. It is designed with an open mesh so that a crawling baby or toddler will be supported off the water on the netting should they fall into the pool and their arms and legs will become entrapped in the netting preventing forward movement on the net. It is uncomfortable and will normally result in the child crying and alerting an adult’s attention. A crawling baby will be suspended off the water. As children age and get heavier and more mobile they may come into contact with the water but will be able to push themselves up and away from the water. Safety nets have an expected lifespan of 6 -8 years in the sun and are the most cost effective way to go about securing a swimming pool with an excellent track record in drowning prevention.
Another option for securing a swimming pool is the solid safety cover. This is a cover manufactured from PVC and supported in place by poles at regular intervals across the pool. The solid safety cover uses minimal fittings and attachments and is ratcheted into place and kept under tension. Designed to support the weight of two adults and a child it also helps keep the pool clean and free of leaves and debris reduces water evaporation and chemical use. The solid safety cover is not as versatile as the safety net and can only be used on certain pool shapes and sizes. The fitted cover is rather heavy and requires two people to fit and remove. It does however provide a high degree of safety and there are less fittings and components on the paving surround.
It offers more functionality in that it helps reduce maintenance and running costs. It is more expensive than a traditional safety net however with a lifespan of 4- 5 years. The solid safety cover is another excellent way to secure a pool.
A third option for swimming pool safety is a pool fence. Pool fencing is traditionally made using galvanised steel. Alternatives now exist made from materials such as fabric, wood, plastic and glass. The main requirement being that any pool fence should be a minimum of 1,2m high. It should offer no means for a child to climb over or under the fence. It should be a smooth vertical surface secured into the ground and include a self-closing lockable gate.
Pool fencing provides a means to secure the area that a pool is in rather than the pool itself. Many people feel that a fence provides a higher degree of safety than a net, but many drownings still happen in pools that are fenced. The main benefit of a pool fence is that there is no fitting and removal required to access the pool. As with all the safety products available, pool fencing will require regular maintenance but depending on the material used in its construction should last in excess of ten years.
Parental supervision is the most important step, but it can and does fail. No one can watch an active toddler every moment of every day. The annoying neighbour rings the doorbell to borrow milk (again), your burning dinner sets the fire alarm off, your seven year old runs inside with a bloody nose, you drop a frozen pork chop on your toe – distractions happen. It only takes minutes for your life to be turned upside down forever. The solution is to implement layers of protection. It is important to always remember that any safety product is only ever a back-up to adult supervision. A safety net or cover when in use offers the best levels of protection. When off the pool, users are generally aware and take greater steps to monitor and supervise children in their care.
The cover or net is replaced once the pool is vacated. Fencing offers a more constant security system but can result in a false sense of security. A child may access the pool area through an unlocked/open gate or climb over or under the fence. A layered approach to safety is key with the implementation of at least two safety measures to protect the pool. The more layers you have, the safer your pool area. Supervise, limit access to the pool area, cover the pool, swimming lessons, etc. All of these layers should be in place. If there is a lapse in supervision, for whatever reason, each layer must fail before a drowning can occur.
Always designate at least one adult as being responsible when children at play around an unprotected pool. If the person needs to leave his or her post, a physical hand-over/changing of the guard should take place. Have a Pool Safety hat, shirt, stick or whatever you prefer. This way there can be no confusion that Mom thinks Dad’s watching, Dad thinks Mom’s watching and nobody is actually watching as another child drowns.
A safety net or any pool cover can never be a substitute for adult supervision. It is there to provide a last line of safety should a child wander off unsupervised. It only takes seconds for a child to drown. Drowning is a silent killer.
In South Africa in 2012 Netcare reported that they attended to 218 drownings or near drownings. That statistic is from just one Emergency response operator. Child safe a NGO reports that 326 children drown every year because an adult turned their back! The Medical Research council has released statistics that over 3000 people died from drowning in the past 5 years. More than one death by drowning every day of the year.
Take your child for professional swimming lessons at an early stage and take the time to learn CPR and accident procedures. If not your own child, you may be able to save someone else’s.
The suddenness of this type of accident and the results it yields is devastating. When you think pool safety, think hard core. Even if this is not your personality, you must be an absolute dictator.
THERE CAN BE NO COMPROMISE ON POOL SAFETY.
Be the adult – supervise and establish a pool safety protocol in your home today!