With ice and snow still blanketing pools across Ontario, it’s hard to believe that pool opening season is just weeks away. Fingers crossed, most Ontarians will be opening and heating their pools in April and May. But at this rate, instructors and lifeguards will need to go back indoors before hypothermia sets in! While they wait for the weather to cooperate, home owners can start to get their pools ready for all to enjoy.
Complete a thorough inspection of the backyard and pool focusing on safety priorities. This should include the gate and fencing. The gate should close and latch securely on its own and be locked when the pool area is not in use. Check the area around the fence to make sure it is secure and that no one can get in through openings or gaps. If there is direct access to the pool from the house, place an additional barrier such as a second fence around the perimeter of the pool to prevent children from entering the unsupervised area. Consider installing a door chime that will alert you when a child opens the door to the backyard. Chemicals should be safely stored in sealed and labelled containers away from heat and out of a child’s reach all year round. Keep children safe by preventing access to the water and chemicals.
As the warmer weather nears (it will happen, we promise) clean the pool deck, making sure there are no tripping hazards or obstacles and the area is free of debris. Check diving boards to ensure they are fastened securely and that the non-slip surface is still intact. If you have a pool slide, check that it is securely fastened.
Preventative safety measures must continue to be in place throughout the season. More than 500 Canadians drown each year, according to the Lifesaving Society, with drowning being the second highest cause of accidental death for children 10 and under. 42% of those drownings occur in backyard pools.
Never leave children alone around any water. This includes inflatable or wading pools, hot tubs, wells, ponds and even buckets. Drowning can happen quietly and in just a few seconds. An adult should be no more than two feet away from young children, toddlers and infants around water. Non-swimmers and children should wear life jackets at all times when in the pool.
Finally the weather outside invites you to use the backyard pool; the season has finally arrived! Be aware of temperatures outside and in the water. Know the signs and symptoms of heat and cold related emergencies, such as hypothermia and heat stroke. Take a first aid course and keep your first aid certification current and up to date. For convenience sake, hire a first aid instructor to come to your home to teach your group of family and friends. People who take a first aid course are 40% less like to be injured according to the Canadian Red Cross.
All pool users should learn how to swim. It is even possible to hire swim instructors to teach all family members from the very young to the not-so-young in your own pool. This option can be very convenient and affordable.
Adults who supervise swimmers should not be distracted by anything, including a ringing phone, a text or another child. Adults can easily become distracted when entertaining other people during backyard pool parties and gatherings. Designate at least one adult from your party to focus solely on pool supervision at all times. As an alternative, hire a trained and equipped lifeguard or two to supervise during pool parties so that hosts and guests can be free to socialize.
Children and adults love to play with toys and floating objects in the pool but some objects intended for water use can be dangerous and should not be used. Inflatable boats or buoyant lounge chairs and mats are hazardous in the pool as swimmers can become trapped underneath them. These objects are too big for a pool and make it difficult to adequately supervise everyone in the water.
Awareness and common sense are key when you own a backyard pool. With preventative safety measures in place, all can enjoy the season in and around the backyard pool free from injury or death! SOS 4 Kids wishes you a fun and safe season.