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Press Releases

06/03/2014

Not Just Fun and Games: Pool Play Requires Adult Supervision

HARTFORD, June 3 – As the weather heats up, the Department of Consumer Protection is reminding families and caregivers that supervising children around water is essential for their safety.

“Keeping an eye on the kids at the beach or backyard pool is no picnic for parents – nor should it be,” Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein said today. “Across the United States each day, ten people die from drowning, including two kids aged 14 or younger. Each day, ten youngsters who survive drowning are brought to hospital emergency departments for treatment of submersion injuries that can lead to severe brain damage and long-term disabilities.”

Research shows that factors that affect drowning risk include:

  • Lack of Swimming Ability: Among children between the ages of one and four years, participation in formal swimming lessons reduces the risk of accidental drowning.
  • Lack of Barriers: Barriers, such as pool fencing, prevent young children from gaining access to the pool area undetected. A four-sided isolation fence (that separates the pool area from the house and yard) reduces a child’s risk of drowning 83% compared to three-sided property-line fencing.
  • Lack of Close Supervision: Drowning can happen quickly and quietly anywhere there is water and even in the presence of lifeguards. Yelling for help and flailing about are not accurate indicators of drowning. Seen from a distance, a drowning person can experience mortal distress, panic, and slip underwater with barely a splash. The U.S. Coast Guard publication, “On Scene,” in its Fall 2006 issue included a very clear description of the “instinctive drowning response,” which can be read here.
  • Location: The majority of child drowning victims under age four drown in home swimming pools, while the percentage of drownings in natural water settings, including lakes, rivers and oceans, increases with age.

Other factors include failure to wear life jackets when boating, alcohol use among teens and adults, and seizure disorders. The following information and reminders may help keep backyard water play safer:

  • Supervise, supervise, supervise: Designate a responsible adult to watch young children at all times in and around water. When supervising toddlers and preschoolers at play, an adult should be within arm’s reach of the children at all times. Because drowning occurs quickly and quietly, adults should not be involved in any other distracting activity (reading, tending to chores, playing cards, talking on the phone) while supervising children, even when at a public location with lifeguards on duty.
“Children also love to play in spas and hot tubs, but they need to be supervised, and never allowed to do headstands in the spa, because hair entrapment is a real danger,” said Al Rizzo of the Connecticut Spa and Pool Association. “In a few seconds, hair can become entrapped in suction outlets, so I always suggest bathing caps for anyone with long hair.”
  • Secure, surround and lock the backyard pool area. Pool owners should adopt several layers of protection, including a fence at least four feet high that completely surrounds the pool with self-closing, self-latching gates that open outward. Latches are best placed at adult shoulder height, out of children’s reach. A four-sided pool fence that totally separates the pool area from the house and yard is best. If your house forms one side of the “fence,” install alarms on any door that leads to the pool area.
A power safety cover over the pool when not in use is another layer of security. Automatic door/gate locks and fence alarms are options to further prevent access or provide alerts.
Any pool NOT fully enclosed by a locked and gated fence should have an in-pool safety alarm. Some of these float on the water while others establish a radar zone across the pool area. A visit to a properly licensed pool retailer can help you choose the most effective alarm for your pool.
  • Clear the pool, deck, and surrounding area. Remove floats, balls and other toys from the pool and surrounding area immediately after use so children are not tempted to re-enter the pool area unsupervised. Store benches, ladders or other items that small children could use to help them reach the gate latch.
  • “Don't let vegetation obstruct your view of any area in the pool, make sure patio furniture is at least four feet away from the edge of the pool and remember that floating toys such as rafts and "noodles" should not be used by non-swimmers unless they also wear a Coast Guard approved life preserver,” Rizzo said. “Floating toys are dangerous when multiple children are in the water, as they can obstruct a clear view.”
  • Electricity and water do not mix! Electrical accidents occur because of improper or faulty grounding wires of the pool. All new pools must be wired, and grounded by a master electrician. Your town’s electrical inspector must inspect this work before it's finished. Check with your town Building Department to find out if your pool was properly wired and when.
“If the pool was wired more than five years ago, it’s a good idea to hire a licensed master electrician or a licensed spa and pool installer with a Swimming Pool maintenance license (SP1) to inspect the grounding of your pool,” Rizzo said. “Already this spring, there have been pool-related electrical accidents in other states, including a 12-year old Florida boy who was killed, along with his father, who tried to save him.”
  • Promote the buddy system. Make it a family habit and backyard rule to always “swim with a buddy.”
  • Provide swimming lessons at a young age. Formal swimming lessons can protect young children from drowning. However, even when children have had formal swimming lessons, constant observation and supervision when children are in the water, and effective barriers are still important.
  • Learn CPR. In the time it takes for paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills could save someone’s life.

As consumers take steps to ensure optimal backyard pool safety, state and federal lawmakers continue to push for consumer safeguards within the pool and spa industry. The 2008 Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act mandated that all public pools and spas have safety drain covers, and in certain circumstances, an anti-entrapment system. The 2008 Act also applies to the building of new residential pools; make sure your pool conforms to these important safety codes, even if it pre-dates the law. All main drains in pools and spas should have specially designed covers, which can prevent serious entrapment injuries and death. Covers must be changed periodically as recommended by the manufacturer. Don’t swim in any pool that has a broken or loose main drain cover.

Licensed pool and spa workers are qualified to do pool and spa safety inspections, which are recommended to be done every 12 months on home pools and spas.

In 2011 penalties for engaging in swimming pool maintenance and repair work without a license were increased, and builders of pools were required to be licensed. On May 28th 2014, Governor Dannell Malloy signed Public Act 2014-50, requiring licensees to complete three hours of continuing education every two years, putting the licensee in a position to provide Connecticut swimmers increased protection through strict licensing and educational standards.

Commissioner Rubenstein said, “The new standards will go a long way towards making pools safer and helping people live healthier lives.”

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Media Contact: Claudette Carveth
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