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Every year, more than 250 young children in the United States drown — and thousands more are hospitalized with brain damage or other injuries — due to accidents in home swimming pools or spas. This is particularly tragic because most of these accidents could have been prevented with a few simple steps.
Put a fence around your pool (not just perimeter yard fencing). Multiple barriers are the best way to prevent childhood drowning. Fences are better than covers because they're always there — unlike covers, which are often left open for extended periods of time.
Fencing must be at least 4 feet high with no gaps wider than 3 inches. Newer removable fencing products are effective, parent-friendly, and attractive, but should not be removed until the child is old enough to be trusted around the pool.
For extra safety, in addition to a fence, you can cover the pool with a rigid, motorized cover, available from pool supply companies (try searching online). If you use one, keep water from collecting on top of the cover. Even a small puddle of water poses a drowning hazard to young children.
If you have an above-ground pool, be sure to remove or lock up the ladder when the pool isn't in use.
Inside your home, add latches to any doors and windows that lead outside. Get in the habit of using these latches at all times, and ask your houseguests to do the same.
Consider installing a pool alarm system, also available at pool supply companies. The most reliable alarms, designed to detect underwater movement, generally cost between $100 and $200.
Surface devices that detect waves are also helpful, but they're more likely to cause false alarms and they can't be used when a pool cover is in place. You can also put a wristband on your child that sounds an alarm when it gets wet.
If you have an alarm system in your home, set it on "chime." This means the alarm system will make a chime sound if anyone opens a perimeter door or window and alert you if your child tries to get out. If you're not sure whether your alarm system has this feature, ask your alarm company.
No matter what kind of alarm system you have for your pool or home, don't let your guard down. Even the best alarm is no substitute for a fence, latches, and — most of all — vigilance. Never let a young child go near a pool or spa without close adult supervision.