Pool Fence Safety

This past weekend, I read a news report about a young child that suffered drowning related injuries. This is always a very sad event. What makes this report unusual is that the pool was closed for the summer. The child was still able to get under the pool cover. Once the child was in the pool, he was not able to get out due to the low water level and stiff cover. How would you have known that you have to worry about a pool closed and covered?

Anyone who has ever cared for a toddler or small child knows how quick and inquisitive they may be. At this age children lack a realistic sense of danger. They are intrigued by pools and water and often have fond memories swimming with their parents and loved ones. When alone, they see no reason to find a way in the deep blue.

The leading cause of accidental drownings for the nearly 300 children age 5 and under is due to the fact that the homeowners did not completely fence in their pools and failed to use self-closing and self-latching devices per code on gates. The Consumer Protection Safey Commission reports that child drownings are the second leading cause of accidental death for childern at home under 5 years in age. This is not only pools. This also includes hot tubs and spas. The CPSC has made a determination that the greatest means to reduce these child drownings is for pool owners to construct and maintain full barriers around the pools, spas, and hot tubs. Most spas and hot tubs are covered with a snap on hasp. These are the same types of hasp that small children play with on their cribs and car seats. They will often know how to quickly snap the hasp.

CPSC publishes an annual report covering child drownings. Based on this report, we have identified some of the key facts that you should know about pool safety.

  • 300 children under the age of 5 drown in spas and swimming pools every year.
  • Children between the age of 1 and 3 years represented 67 percent of the reported fatalities and 66 percent of the reported injuries in pools and spas.
  • Well over 4,100 children under the age of 5 suffer drowning injuries that require emergency room care. Over 50 percent are seriously injured and are admitted to the hospital.
  • The vast majoritiy of drownings occur in pools owned by the family, friends, or relatives.
  • Portable pools including all types accounted for 10 percent of the total fatalities.

To help prevent these pool drownings and injuries, all spas, hot tubs, and pools should have a barrier that meet the following:

  1. The barrier should be 48" tall at a minimum. Be sure to check local codes as many communities require 72" tall barriers. This measurement is from the top of the barrier to the top of the adjoining area. If there is furniture or a planter near the fence or barrier that may reduce this distance, then move this item.
  2. The maximum vertical distance from the underside of the fence or barrier to the top of the grade should not exceed 4". If you have loose soil or rocks, reduce this distance.
  3. Openings in the fence or barrier should not allow a 4 inch diameter sphere to pass through. The general rule of thumb is that you may apply some reasonable force to the sphere so you may need to reduce the distance to account for flexible materials.
  4. Make sure that the fence or barrier are not easily climbable. The spacing between vertical members should not exceed 1 3/4" wide. The maximum mesh size for chain link fencing should not exceed 1 1/4". This means that the standard chain link residential fencing may not be an ideal choice for pool safety.
  5. Gates for the pool should be equipped with some form of a self-locking device. Gates should always open outward away from the pool with self-closing hinges. This will prevent children from simply pushing inward on the gate gate until it pops a weak latch.
  6. All gate latches should be located no less than 54" from the bottom side of the gate. Often overlooked is the release mechanism that should be located on the pool side of the gate at a minimum of 3" below the top of the gate.

Though not required, we would highly recommend the use of alarms on all gates. These are very inexpensive and easy to install devices that sell for less than 20 dollars. These simple alarms work on a battery and perform much like your smoke detector when the battery gets weak it begins to beep. These devices are also available to tie into a home security system or link with a WIFI devise.