Every home pool, spa, or hot tub needs "house rules" that cover supervision, behavior, dangers, maintenance, use of electrical appliances, and handling of chemicals. These house rules -- for children and adults alike -- must be established immediately, written in simple language, and posted where they are easy to see.
The home owner has the bottom-line responsibility for safety while entertaining. Use good judgment to help protect yourself, your family, and your guests.
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Here are some simple precautions to ensure that your good times are safe times.
Pool Safety for Children
Always supervise children. Never leave a child out of eye contact -- not even for a second. Never assume a child is water-safe, regardless of swimming lessons or experience.
Always swim with a buddy. Children should understand that they are never allowed to swim alone.
Talk to children about dangers. Make sure children get swimming and water safety lessons. Never allow a child to play in a way that would permit hair to come near a drain cover. They should not stick fingers, toes, or body parts into drains. They should not play the "hold your breath underwater" game.
Require good behavior from kids. This means:
No playful screaming for help (false alarms) that might mask a real emergency
No running or pushing near the pool
No toys like tricycles near the pool; they can lead to accidental falls into water
Establish rules on diving. That means:
Don't allow diving if your pool is less than five feet deep.
Teach children to dive with their hands in front of their faces.
Teach them to swim immediately toward the surface after diving.
Respect storms. Never swim before, during, or after a thunderstorm.
Limit alcohol. No under-age drinking is allowed. Adults should limit drinking near the pool. Just two or three drinks can affect a person's judgment, even though he or she may not feel or appear to be drunk. Even a small amount of alcohol can slow reflexes -- especially if the drinker is tired or taking medication like cold/allergy drugs or prescriptions.
Pool Maintenance and Child Safety
Keep the pool child-safe. That means:
Fences or walls at least four feet high completely around the pool
Gates that are self-closing and self-latching, with latches out of reach of children
Installing alarms on doors leading to the pool area, or alarms on the pool
Using a cover for the pool when it is not in use
Making sure drain covers are properly fitted and are paired or have vacuum suction releases to prevent being trapped under water
Keep rescue equipment close by. This should include a sturdy, lightweight pole at least 10-12 feet long, a ring buoy with line, and a portable or mobile telephone. Steps and ladders for above-ground pools should be secured or removed when the pool is not in use.
Get inspected. Have your pool inspected for electrical hazards, and upgrade all systems according to local codes and the National Electrical Code. Also, any diving board, rock, platform, or slide should be inspected before they are used.
Respect electricity. Use battery-operated appliances instead of cord-connected appliances in and around the pool.
Prepare for emergency. Know where all electrical switches and circuit breakers for pool equipment and lights are located and how to turn them off in an emergency. Learn how to perform CPR. Keep a first aid kit close by.