Pools are fun—and potentially dangerous
You're installing a pool or "home spa" hot tub in for relaxation, recreation, and fun. And it'll be a great feature to have for backyard parties with family and friends.
- Pool fun – An estimated 7.4 million swimming pools and five million hot tubs are in residential or public use in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Why is the CDC involved in pool counts?
- Pool accidents – From 2005-2014, there was an average of over 3,500 fatal, unintentional drownings in the United States each year. More than one out of five drowning victims is 14 years old or younger.
Know your local pool laws
Each town has its own definition of what constitutes a “home pool,” often based on its size and the depth of the water. Contact your municipality to learn the local standards and relevant safety and building codes to which you must adhere. These may include installing a certain size fence, locks, decks and pool safety equipment.
Understand the insurance implications of a pool
A pool is considered an “attractive nuisance” by the insurance industry. As enjoyable as it is, it will increase your liability risk so it's advisable to contact your insurance professional and review your insurance if you've got a pool or are planning to install one.
Pool owners should consider increasing the liability portion of their homeowners policy to at least $300,000 or $500,000—more, if their assets warrant it.
You might also want to consider an umbrella liability policy, which provides additional liability protection over and above what you already have on your home.
Be sure to have enough insurance protection to replace your pool in the event it is destroyed by a storm or other disaster—including the amount of any pool-related items, such as deck furniture.
Plan for safe pool and hot tub use and for emergencies
- Create a barrier. To eliminate unsupervised entrance to the swimming or spa area, install a fence with self-closing gates or other barrier on all sides of the pool. If the house forms part of the barrier to the pool, install alarms on doors leading to the pool area to prevent children from wandering into the pool or spa unsupervised. In addition to the fences or other barriers required by many towns, consider creating several “layers of protection” such as locks, alarms, locks and safety covers to secure the pool and pool area when not in use.
- Create and post a list of safety rules and strictly enforce them with guests.
- Post emergency numbers on the home phone nearest the pool, in the event of an accident. Keep a copy and a first aid kit, ring buoys and reaching poles near the pool.
- Know how to shut off filters and other devices and clearly post this information so others can do so in case of an emergency.
- Learn—and have your family members learn—basic water rescue skills, including first aid and CPR training.
- Get your children swimming lessons as early as possible. Having a backyard pool makes this a vital and important safety skill.
Take safety precautions in the pool
- Ask if pool users know how to swim. Learners should be accompanied by a good swimmer. Do not allow anyone to use the pool alone (and don't do so yourself).
- Never leave children unsupervised—even for a few seconds. It only takes a second for tragedy to happen.
- Block children from pool filters and other mechanical devices, as the suction force may injure them or prevent them from surfacing.
- Don't leave toys or floats in the pool when not in use—they may prove to be a deadly temptation for toddlers who might then fall into the pool while trying to reach them.
- Pay attention to the weather. Excessive heat can cause dizziness, which can dangerous around a pool. And never swim during rain or lightning storms.
- If you have a diving board, post the depth and the rules nearby and keep the diving area clear. Never allow diving into an aboveground pool.
- Don’t hesitate to curtail guests' activities around the pool if you have doubts about their sobriety, their alertness or their water skills.
Take safety precautions in the pool area
- Check regularly for potential hazards around the pool. Glass bottles and electronic devices can be dangerous near the pool or around wet areas. Toys near the pool can create slipping hazards or tempt children near the water.
- Use plastic drink ware and serving ware around the pool to minimize the danger of broken glass underfoot, and to protect your pool liner from potential damage.
- Limit alcohol use around the water. The CDC reports that alcohol use is involved in up to half of adolescent and adult deaths associated with water recreation. Drinking negatively impacts balance, coordination and judgment—and its effects are further heightened by sun exposure and heat—including the heated water of a hot tub. Don't allow anyone who has been drinking alcohol excessively to go into the pool.
For First Aid and CPR and other emergency training, contact the American Red Cross.
Learn more about pool safety at Pool Safely.