If you're preparing to host your first pool party for little ones, you have a lot to think about. Before themes, decorations, food, and games, the first priority of every pool party host is the safety of the guests, especially the kids. Here you'll find tips and tricks compiled from The Red Cross, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and swim instruction experts, to keep little swimmers happy and safe in the water.
Installing successive barriers and alerts can save lives, and can also lower your homeowners insurance premiums by reducing the risk of an accident. The Red Cross recommends that you safeguard children with the following devices to help you child proof your pool:
- A self-locking, self-closing pool fence with vertical bars spaced less than 4" apart: Christine Venzon from The Learning Channel notes that gates should open outward, away from the pool, to help keep toddlers out, and the child proof latches should sit high on the gate post.
- A land line or wireless phone on the patio or porch facing the pool: This can be accessed quickly to call an ambulance, in case of an incident.
- Child-proof door locks on household doors leading to the pool area: This helps to prevent small children from entering the pool area unattended.
- An alarm that sounds when the door or pool gate opens, or when someone enters the water: A simple motion detector alarm can save lives by notifying you when a child is near the pool, or falls in.
There is additional equipment you can use to keep your guests safe. Some examples include:
- A sturdy, child proof pool cover with metal fittings
- A throwable life preserver
- Age-appropriate personal flotation devices, such as life jackets
- Scissors to cut hair or clothing caught underwater
- A stocked first-aid kit
The American Academy of Pediatrics refers to these successive barriers and alerts as "layers of protection." It starts with the human element, namely close parental supervision, and moves outward to safety devices on doors, gates, and finally the pool itself. That way if one protection fails, another takes up the slack.
Make Sure Your Homeowners Policy Is Ready to Party.
If you have added a pool to your backyard, even an above ground pool, your homeowners insurance may be inadequate to cover the potential risks of a pool party. Even if the pool was in place before you purchased coverage, the extra risks you face by bringing guests into your yard require a certain level of coverage. Speak to your agent about the following coverage, to be sure you are not placing your home and earnings at risk:
- Liability: This can cover property damage and bodily injury. If a child slips and breaks an arm while running around the pool deck, you could be held financially responsible for the medical payments. You might also face court-ordered damages and other settlement fees, on top of your legal defense. Your liability coverage can pay for these costs, up to the limits on your policy. But if your homeowners liability policy is not up to date, the pool may be excluded from coverage.
- Medical payments: If someone in your family is injured in or near the pool, medical payments can help with the cost of hospital bills and rehabilitation.
- Umbrella insurance: If you are concerned that the liability limits on your homeowners policy may be insufficient to cover a major lawsuit, umbrella coverage can help. This is extra liability insurance to raise and broaden limits of your existing liability policies, such those included in your car insurance and your homeowners policy.
Safety Starts with the Party Invitations.
SWIMkids USA advises that your party invitations should clearly convey that this is a family-style pool party, and not a drop-off event. Make sure parents understand that they will need to attend along with their children, and will need to keep a close watch on them, for their own safety.
You can also use the invitations to ask that parents bring personal flotation devices for each child who is not a strong swimmer. These should be Coast Guard approved devices, chosen to suit the age, size, and experience of the wearer.
Set the Pool Rules.
Establishing safety expectations up front can enable you to relax and enjoy hosting your party. Here are a few suggested rules for your party-goers, to keep everyone on the same page:
- The first and most important safety tip is to supervise children at all times. Dr. Flaura Winston of Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania advises, "Parents should escort their children to pool parties, and supervise them once there, or take turns doing so with the other adults. Toddlers should remain within arm's length of adults when they are close to water." This is one situation when it takes a village to raise a child. Parents can still take breaks to relax and enjoy the party by swapping places now and then.
- Weak swimmers should abide by The Red Cross's touch rule, meaning that they remain close enough to touch an adult at all times, and should wear an approved life vest anytime they have access to the poolside.
- Try to discourage horse play and running near the water, to minimize the chance of slips and falls, or accidentally knocking a small child into the water.
- Make sure to provide plenty of kid-safe sunscreen and bug repellant, to protect against UV rays, wasps, and bees while swimming.
- Encourage guests to keep the poolside areas free of toys, plates, and cups, and remove all toys from the water when no one is swimming. This can help to prevent toddlers from wandering too close.
- Warn swimmers to stay away from pool drains. Venzon notes that if your pool was installed prior to 2008, you may need to upgrade your pool drain cover to meet new safety standards that prevent entanglement.
Hire Your Own Lifeguard.
If you want to enjoy your guests with even greater peace of mind, consider hiring a lifeguard for the party. Many parents have started to contact local swim instructors and community pools to inquire about lifeguard services for their residential pool parties. Marissa Johnson, a parent and pool owner in Southern California, shared her experience with the Indian Valley Daily Bulletin: "It just makes me feel better knowing there are other eyes on the kids. And believe me, these lifeguards work. They are all business. At the last party I had, the lifeguard was moving around for four hours and never sat down.”
Look Out for Doggy Guests, Too.
The Critter Courier notes that not all dogs are seasoned swimmers, and can quickly get into trouble if they aren't accustomed to having a pool in the backyard. Keep your furry guests safe by making sure every canine is supervised near the water, especially the weaker swimmers.
Don't Forget to Sit Back and Enjoy.
Friends, food, and poolside fun add up to plenty of summer memories. The responsibility of keeping guests and kids safe around the pool can be a bit overwhelming, but with a little strategy and forethought, you and your loved ones can party in perfect safety.