Preventing child drownings: How to plan for the unexpected

BARRIERS

The following barrier recommendations are the result of identifying key parameters that typically contribute to child drowning in backyard pools. These recommendations are the minimum steps you can take to make your home a safe place for your child.

Barriers are not childproof, but they provide layers of protection for a child who strays from supervision. Barriers give parents additional time to locate a child before the unexpected becomes a reality.

 

Barriers include a fence or wall, door alarms for the house, and a power safety cover over the pool. Barriers also may be used to protect children from accessing hot tubs and spas. Use the following recommendations as a guide:

FENCES & GATES

  • Install a fence or other barrier, such as a wall, completely around the pool. If the house is part of the barrier, the doors leading from the house to the pool should be protected with an alarm or the pool should have a power safety cover. Alarm and cover details are below.
  • The fence or other barrier should be at least 4 feet high. It should have no foot- or handholds that could help a young child to climb it.
  • Vertical fence slats should be less than 4 inches apart to prevent a child from squeezing through.

    Use this as a guide when the release mechanism is located less than 54 inches from the bottom of the gate.

  • If horizontal members are equal to or more than 45 inches apart, vertical spacing shall not exceed 4 inches.
  • If the fence is chain link, then no part of the diamond-shaped opening should be larger than 1-3/4 inches.
  • Fence gates should be self-closing and self-latching. The gate should be well maintained to close and latch easily. The latch should be out of a child's reach.
  • When the release mechanism of the self-latching device is less than 54 inches from the bottom of the gate, the release mechanism for the gate should be at least 3 inches below the top of the gate on the side facing the pool. Placing the release mechanism at this height prevents a young child from reaching over the top of a gate and releasing the latch. Also, the gate and barrier should have no opening greater than 1/2 inch within 18 inches of the latch release mechanism. This prevents a young child from reaching through the gate and releasing the latch.

There are a wide variety of fencing construction materials available to compliment your house and pool surroundings. Your local fence company or pool enclosure company can provide you with information and assist you in making a selection.

The weak link in the strongest and highest fence is a gate that fails to close and latch completely. For a gate to close completely every time, it must be in proper working order.

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