Do I need a fence for the inflatable above-ground pool? Pediatric Emergency Notes

Do I need a fence for our above ground pool? Drowning prevention,We don’t have a built-in pool at our home, but we often use a little splash pool which got me to thinking about the safety of above-ground pools — you know, the sort that just go up for the summer, whether rigid sides or inflatable, and come down when school is back in session.

As a pediatric emergency department nurse I’ve seen my fill of child drowning victims and so I tend to be hypervigilant around pools. The absolutely crushing part about drownings is that they are nearly always preventable.

I asked Jessica Mitchell, Safe Kids Pima County coordinator, what the rules are regarding fencing and general safety practices around temporary above-ground pool structures.

“The law…oh the law on pools! It can be so confusing. Pretty much, if you have a pool that is taller than 18 inches and wider than 8 feet intended for swimming, it requires a fence/barrier that is at least 5 feet tall with a self-closing or self-latching gate. The entire law for pools can be found on the Arizona government pages“ Jessica shares.

“Mesh fencing is a great option for those with above-ground temporary pools because when the pool comes down, the mesh fence can also come down. There is one exception to having to put up a pool fence, and that is if everyone in the household is 6 years or older, no safety measures need to be in place. This doesn’t mean this is the safest option. Not everyone over the age of 6 can swim, and even swimmers can get into difficulty in a pool.

“If you decide to get a temporary above-ground pool make sure you have a fence at least 5 feet tall with a self-latching gate. Make sure your child cannot use a chair or other item to climb over the barrier or to unlatch the gate. And emphasize to all kids and adults that the gate is not to be propped open.”

Also, we worry most about pool mishaps in the summer, but be vigilant all year for drowing hazards. Empty the cooler of melted ice water; dispose of the bucket of mop water; drain the bathtub (and never leave your toddler or pre-schooler in the tub unsupervised). Unfortunately, we see all these drowning scenarios in the emergency department.

Whether it’s in the pool, the ocean or the bathtub, you will not hear a child drowing. Drowning is silent … keep your eyes on your child.

This summer we’re going to follow all the advice above as well as the ABCs of pool safety whether it’s a splash pool or a regular pool:

“A” is for Adult Supervision

Always have an adult watching the pool, not reading, not looking at their phone, not taking an afternoon siesta – just watching the kids in the pool. Go ahead and take turns if it’s a social gathering, but make sure that the designated adult knows the rules. Better yet, consider hiring a trained lifeguard. While it seems like the more adults who around, the better. But the reality is that it seems to be the opposite – everyone thinks someone else is wathcing. Make hiring a lifeguard a part of your pool-party budget.

Jessica also wanted to remind folks that floaties are toys and not safety devices. If you have a life vest, they need to be the right size, and they are not a substitute for adult supervision.

“B” is for Barrier

Yes, even with an above-ground temporary pool that you picked up for $75 you want a barrier. It can be mesh; it just has to be at least 5 feet tall and have a self-latching gate. Even if your kids are over the age of 6, what about the neighbors or the grandkids? Make sure the barrier isn’t compromised – there aren’t any chairs or trash cans that can be dragged over to act as a ladder, and that nobody props open the gate.

“C” is for Classes

Tucson has lots of great options for swim classes including Vest it Up!  TMC for Children and Credit Unions for Kids offer FREE year-round swim lessons at dates, times and locations that meet the needs of busy families. These free lessons are at local YMCA locations and include a free personal flatation device, or PFD. This U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vest for kids is provided to kids completing swim classes. The free classes are available to the first 400 kids each year between 4-17 years old.  Register here for Vest it Up!

I have a few additional thoughts:

Having a party? Hire a lifeguard.

It seems like the more adults are around to watch the better right? But in reality it seems to work in the opposite way. Everyone thinks someone else is watching. Make hiring a lifeguard part of your pool party budget.

It’s not just pools and it’s not just summer time

We worry especially in the summer when kids are in the pool, but be vigilant all year. Empty the cooler of melted ice water, dispose of the bucket of mop water, drain the bathtub (and never leave your baby, toddler or preschooler in the bathtub unsupervised.) Unfortunately, we see all these drowning scenarios in the emergency department.

Eyes peeled

Whether it is in the pool, the ocean or the bathtub you will not hear your child drowning. Drowning is a silent affair…keep your eyes on your child.

Hope your summer is splashing good fun.

Stay safe,
Melissa

P.S. Did you know that the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona provides pool safety checks? Request one here 

Melissa HodgesPediatric Emergency Notes from Melissa
Melissa Hodges is a pediatric emergency room RN and mom to two young boys. Melissa has been at Tucson Medical Center for 10 years. She is a knitting ninja apprentice who makes a mean chili and enjoys spending time with her family and friends in beautiful Tucson, Arizona.

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