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Swimming Pool Season Means Time to Take Safety Precautions, CPSC Says

Despite all the rain in the Northeast and Midwest this past weekend, many families are thinking swimming pool - and especially thinking about ways to get the backyard pool ready for the warm weather that is likely to come soon.
And what the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission wants those families to think about - even before the chlorine and the rubber shark - are ways to protect little children from being drowning victims. It's no small concern - each year, 350 children under the age of 5 drown in pools, mostly those at peoples' homes. In some Sunbelt states, drowning is the leading cause of death for young children.

"There is nothing worse than the death of a child," says CPSC chairwoman Ann Brown. "The keys to preventing these tragedies are placing barriers around your pool, closely supervisig your child and being prepared in case of an emergency."

The kinds of barriers Brown has in mind are fences or walls and power safety covers for pools. The fences or walls should be 4-feet high and completely around the pool. Fence gates or latches should be self-closing, and shouldn't be within the reach of a small child.

The CPSC says that if your home forms one of the wall barriers, then doors leading to the pool area should be protected by alarms. In all cases, steps and ladders leading to the pool should be secured and locked, or removed when not in use.

The power safety cover is a motor-powered barrier than can be used instead of door alarms.

Even with all the obstacles, the CPSC says nothing prevents pool tragedies better than adult supervision.

"Barriers are not foolproof protection from accidental drowning," says Brown. "Because their capabilities change every day, toddlers often do the unexpected, like opening closed pool gates they previously could not open." The CPSC says parents should not leave a child in a pool unsupervised, even if the youngster is wearing a floatation device and knows how to swim.

If you have a pool, and you can't find your youngster, look in the pool first - no matter how secure it is. If, by any chance, the child has found his or her way into the water, the seconds saved by looking there first could mean the difference between life and death. The CPSC recommends that some form of life saving equipment be located near the pool - including a phone to call a doctor or ambulance. Helping chances of survival is the knowledge of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, by an adult or teen.

For more information on pool safety, you can look at one of three CPSC publications - "Safety Barrier Guidelines for Pools," "How to Plan for the Unexpected," and "Guidelines for Entrapment Hazards: Making Pools and Spas Safer." - on its Web site at You can also get the publications by calling (800) 638-2772 or writing to Pool Safety, CPSC, Washington, DC 20207.

Read the next parenting article on safety while driving >>
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