How safe is your swimming pool?
Julie Garton-Good, GRI, DREI

For many families, the American Dream is complete once the swimming pool is added to the backyard. But what appears to be a national sign of affluence is also one of the greatest killers of children under the age of five. Nationally, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death in the home; and in the states of Florida, Texas, Arizona and California, it's the leading cause.

What can a homeowner do to prevent this tragedy from occurring? Studies by The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) find that a barrier restricting access from the house to the pool is one of the best ways to prevent these accidents. Review of fatality cases show that since almost all of the victims lived in or visited the residence where the accident happened, restricted access from the house to the pool is critical. This is particularly true of children under the age of five, who often drown while the parent or caretaker is momentarily distracted.

The CPSC has proposed regulations to be administered through existing code enforcement organizations. These guidelines would apply to any outdoor, private swimming pool, hot tub or spa:

  • That there be a barrier around the pool area, at least 48 inches high;
  • That openings in the barrier should not allow passage of anything greater than 4 inches in diameter;
  • That solid barriers should not have openings or indentations that make it possible to climb over the barrier;
  • That the maximum mesh size for chain-link fence shall be 1.25 inches square;
  • That access gates should be equipped with a locking device;
  • Where a wall serves as part of the barrier, all doors with direct access to the pool through that wall shall be equipped with an alarm which produces an audible warning when the door is opened.

Additional guidelines apply to above-ground and indoor pools. For more specific information, you can write to "Pool Safety." U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, DC 20207. Ask for a copy of Safety Barrier Guidelines for Pools (CPSC359).