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Children's Health

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New Pool Safety Gadgets Help Prevent Drowning

Children between the ages of 1 and 4 are most at risk for drowning, and adult supervision often isn't enough to prevent it.

'Layers' of Pool Protection continued...

  • The door to the pool should have an alarm.

  • Install a rigid, power safety pool cover.

  • Install an underwater motion swimming pool alarm.

"We recommend at a minimum the type of alarm that attaches to the side of the pool and actually detects motion under the water, rather than those that monitor surface movement," said Ross. "Surface alarms can be triggered by wind moving the water, and you can get more false alarms."

Ross adds that the CPSC also tested a type of alarm that attaches to a child's wrist like a wristwatch. There are several models available. Some sound an alarm if the wrist band gets wet. Others sound when the band has been under water for a few seconds.

"We did testing on the wrist alarms," said Ross. "And while they are good as a backup layer of protection, we don't recommend them as highly as the underwater motion sensor because of the false alarm problem and because they are not as reliable."

The CPSC's evaluation of various types of pool alarms is available online at

Protection Backs Up Vigilance

"It's true that there is value to electronic alarm systems as part of the layering of protection," says B. Chris Brewster, president of the U.S. Lifesaving Association, which provides training and certification for lifeguards. "But what worries me about the alarms is that people might think they don't have to keep close watch if they have an alarm. That's absolutely wrong. Never, ever leave a child alone in a pool even for a few seconds."

The unfortunate fact of the matter, however, is that a CPSC study on how child drownings occur found that supervision can fail. The investigation looked at deaths of children under age 5 in Arizona, California, and Florida who had drowned in home swimming pools. Here are some of the findings.

Who was in charge of supervision at the time of drowning?

  • 69% of the accidents occurred while one or both parents were responsible for supervision.

  • 10% were adults other than the parents.

  • 14% were sitters.

  • 7% were siblings.

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