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Swimming safely in backyard pools


How safe is your backyard pool?
How safe is your backyard pool?

Lyndsay Morrison, staff writer

July 17, 2011 — Swimming is a great way to cool down and have fun, but it can also be a dangerous activity. Here are some tips from The Weather Network, Lifesaving Society and the Canadian Red Cross on how to keep your family safe this summer.

Swimming can be fun, but it can also be dangerous
Swimming can be fun, but it can also be dangerous

It's an activity that's synonymous with summer. And when the season arrives, many Canadians waste no time making a splash in a public, indoor or backyard pool.

In addition to helping you stay fit and beat the heat, swimming is a great way to have some fun. Still, if you're not careful, a swimming pool can also be a dangerous place. There have been multiple drownings in Canada this year, and 28 per cent of them have been in pools. That number is usually about ten per cent. Here's a breakdown of what you need to know to keep your family safe.

THE WEATHER AND DROWNINGS

When the sun is shining and temperatures are soaring, many Canadians see a backyard pool as a great place to cool off and entertain guests. However, some officials say there may be a correlation between an increase in temperatures and an increase in drownings.

“My opinion is that with hot weather there's more participation in pools,” says Barabara Byers of the Lifesaving Society. “Of the ten drownings in Ontario over the week around Canada Day, 5 of them were in pools. So that's fifty per cent, and that's high.”

Janelle Warren is the Canadian Red Cross' Regional Manager for First Aid and Water Safety Services in Toronto. She agrees that a correlation appears to be evident between drownings and warm weather.

“I think when you look at the statistics of drownings, there seems to be a lot more when we get those very high patches of hot weather,” says Warren. “We had a week of hot, hazy and humid weather in Ontario, and that's when we saw a lot of drownings.”

Make a set of 'pool rules' for your backyard
Make a set of 'pool rules' for your backyard

WHO IS AT RISK?

While most drowning victims in Canada each year tend to be adults, and most tend to occur in lakes and rivers, incidents around pools tend to involve young people.

“All children are at risk. You'll see that the younger kids are at risk due to concerns with supervision, and they need to be very closely supervised at all times,” says Warren. “For the older kids, they tend to be more of the risk takers. Also, some of them overestimate their swimming ability, so again it's important that they are being supervised.”

POOL RULES: WHAT TO DO

“You want to make sure your children's behaviour is conducive to still having fun, but staying safe,” says Warren. “Parents need to stay within sight and reach of their children whenever they're anywhere near the pool, not just in the water. Also, it's important that parents get trained in First Aid and CPR skills, because many parents don't know CPR.”

The Canadian Red Cross suggests that anyone with a pool in their backyard create a set of 'Pool Rules' for their children, family members and friends. These rules are to be communicated before anyone goes into the water.

“We suggest that a 'pool rule' be that no one can go into the water without an adult present,” says Warren. “If anyone's a non-swimmer they should be wearing a life jacket in the pool. Only dive into the deepest point of the pool if it is deep enough for diving. Pools need to be secured. They need to be fenced in with a self-closing, self-latching gate. Also, you should always have safety equipment in your pool so you can help a person. If the worst does happen, make sure you make that call to 911 right away.”

Here are some other tips from the Canadian Red Cross you should keep in mind:

  • Tell visitors the pool rules
  • Always supervise
  • Use personal flotation devices, not toys for support
  • Encourage feet first entries
  • No one should ever dive into an above ground pool
  • Do not wear earplugs; they can add dangerous pressure as you descend
  • Keep safety equipment nearby
  • Alcohol and pools don’t mix.

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