A backyard pool can be a source of fun and relaxation for families, but the water must be treated with respect and attention. Pool safety needs to be of paramount concern to pool owners, especially those with children in the house, as well as in the neighbourhood. Sadly the Red Cross reports drowning as the leading cause of death in children aged one to four and a swimming pool at home increases the chances.

Mother of two Shannon Defer was worried about her two kids, now aged 5 and 8, when she and her husband bought their Nova Scotia house. Their first move was to install a locking gate to the deck that wraps around their above ground pool. “The gate always stays locked, unless we are actively using the pool,” says Defer. The kids can play in the yard and Defer has peace of mind knowing the kids can’t access the pool. It was a good move according to the Red Cross which reports installing self-closing and self-locking gates would eliminate nearly all toddler pool drowning.

Making sure kids don’t have access to the pool in other ways is also important. Ladders to above ground pools can be removed when not in use and patio furniture and other potential climbing hazards should be kept away from the pool to prevent unsupervised access.

Defer says her son once tried to move a patio box over to the pool gate. Her husband caught him and threatened to dismantle the pool if the ever did something like that again. “He was serious,” says Defer. “We would get rid of the pool if we thought it was going to be a risk.”

Teaching your kids to be comfortable in and around the water is another important step says Dalhousie University swim coach David Fry. Living near the ocean, he says he’s always surprised at how many people who work on or near the water don’t know how to swim. Whether it is a backyard pool or living near a lake or river, knowing how to swim is paramount. “Let’s face it, in Canada, not to many people are too far away from at least one of those things.”

Fry says swim lessons are always a good idea and recommends starting kids young. “They become comfortable in the water as infants and that’s a big step.” When they get older, he says small classes are the way to go. In fact, he says more parents are opting for private lessons. “They learn much more quickly,” he says. “You end up spending less money or no more money because you don’t need as many lessons to get to the point where they are, at least, safe in the water.”

However, he warns, lessons can’t replace parental vigilance. Something Defer says she and her husband take seriously. She says sometimes her daughter’s friends are surprised at the strict level of the pool rules, but the Defers stand firm. “They are not allowed into the pool until the parent gets in first.”

The kids may think it is strict, but it lets the Defers enjoy their pool all summer knowing their kids are safe. Lasting summer memories are happiest when safety is a priority.

On May 13th, 2011, posted in: Summer by
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