Is your pool or hot tub safe? The answer may surprise you.

Drowning is the top cause of accidental death for children under four years old and the third leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children 19 and under. Many of these drownings happen in backyard pools, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Water safety is everyone’s responsibility, so make sure you’re doing everything you need to do to keep people safe.

You also need to think about the impact a pool can have on your home insurance. Pools are considered “attractive nuisances” and can affect your premiums. 

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Swimming Pool Safety Tips for Pool Owners

A safety approach that emphasizes layers of protection is your best bet to keep people safe in and around your pool. Consider installing some of these safety precautions to make sure your pool area is as safe as possible.

Pool alarms: Pool alarms alert you that someone is on the way to use your pool. These are useful because most drownings happen when adults don’t expect children to be swimming, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. There are several kinds of alarms and detectors. 

    • Threshold alarms (also known as door alarms or gate alarms) attach to doors, windows, and gates that lead to the pool and alert you when they open. You should mount the disarming button high enough that a child can’t easily reach it.
    • Wall-mounted alarms attach to the pool wall, pool deck, or fence and detect waves on the water’s surface to tell you when someone is in the pool. Turn it off when you’re swimming safely and re-arm it when you’re done.
    • Underwater motion detectors use sonar to look for motion under the water’s surface. 
    • Personal detectors are worn by your child. They’re wristbands that start alarming when they get wet. 
    • Floating sensors are ideal for above-ground pools or temporary installations, like if you’re visiting someone else’s pool where you can’t attach anything to the pool wall. They float on the surface of the water and sound an alarm when someone enters the pool. They’re portable and easy to take on vacation.

Pool fences: The American Academy of Pediatrics says pool fencing is the most effective, proven way to prevent kids from drowning. You can find both permanent and portable options. The fence should be at least 4 feet high and surround the pool on all sides; some places require pool barriers to be at least 60 inches tall, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Make sure the barrier doesn’t have handholds or footholds that kids can use to climb over, the CPSC recommends.

The fence should also be four-sided and separate the pool from the house and the yard, the Red Cross recommends. A four-sided fence reduces child drownings by 83 percent compared to three-sided property line fencing. Use self-closing and self-latching gates so they can’t accidentally be left open.

Pool covers: A pool safety cover keeps people from hopping in and protects the pool from leaves, dirt, and other debris. Make sure it covers the whole pool and fits securely to prevent kids from falling and slipping under it.

Pool safety nets: These are sometimes easier to place than pool covers. They won’t protect the pool from debris but can deter people from using the pool. However, kids and pets could get tangled in the net, so you should still pay attention to the pool if you use one.

Anti-entrapment drain covers: These are required to be installed on public pool drains, but you should make sure they’re securely in place in your own home pool or spa too. Children can easily get stuck in a drain or suction opening if the drain cover is loose, broken, or missing, and they can drown before you realize what’s happening. This happened to Virginia Graeme Baker, a child who drowned due to suction entrapment from a faulty drain cover. In Virginia’s memory, the Pool & Spa Safety Act was passed to mandate covers on the drains in public pools. The law also founded the Pool Safely campaign.

Above-ground pools also need good guard rails around the pool deck. They should swing up or be removable to prevent young children from entering the pool while unsupervised.

Aside from safety devices, simply paying attention is another way for caregivers to keep kids and pets safe around pools. The most important safety step is to simply designate a water watcher any time kids are in the pool. Adult supervision is crucial to making sure kids are playing safely in the water. The water watcher shouldn’t be reading, texting, or using their phone—they should be within arm’s reach of the kids. Enforce pool safety rules that emphasize playing safely.

You should also make sure kids who can’t swim are equipped with flotation devices, such as life jackets or inflatable floaties that fit around their arms, though no child should ever be left without supervision, with or without safety devices in use. . Swim lessons teach lifesaving skills, like how to stay afloat, so if they’re available from your local YMCA or parks department, sign your kids up for swimming lessons.

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Pool Safety and Home Insurance

The insurance industry considers pools and hot tubs to be “attractive nuisances” that will increase your liability risk. Whether your pool is in-ground or above-ground, it’s important to let your insurance company know you have one. Review your insurance if you’re thinking about putting a pool in, and see if the policy will allow for it. If you go ahead and build the pool without disclosing it, your insurer could drop your entire policy. 

The Insurance Information Institute recommends increasing the liability portion of your homeowners policy to at least $300,000 to $500,000 when you put in a pool. You might also consider an umbrella liability policy that provides extra liability protection on top of what you already have on your home. Some policies won’t cover pools with slides or diving boards and may require specific safety measures, so review what’s required. Local laws can also affect the safety measures you’re required to take and may mandate specific types of pool alarms, fences, or covers.

You also need to make sure your homeowners insurance will replace your pool and other related items, like deck furniture, if a storm or another disaster destroys them. Making sure everything is covered will let you enjoy your pool in peace.

Frequently Asked Questions - Pool Safety at Home

What else can I do to keep people safe around my pool?

Learn CPR and first aid! Bystanders are usually the first people to help drowning victims, so you may be able to save someone’s life by learning CPR and first aid. Once you’re certified, make sure you keep your certification current so your skills don’t lapse.

How important are pool rules?

Pool rules are important to keep everyone safe near the water. Rules for kids should include: Don’t go in, near, or around the pool without an adult. No pushing, running, or diving. If someone is in trouble, tell an adult right away.

Why do swimming pools increase homeowners insurance premiums?

There are two reasons that premiums go up when you install a pool. One is that your liability has increased because someone could get hurt in or around your pool. The other is that if a natural disaster damages the pool, it can easily flood your basement or other parts of your house. These increased risks lead insurers to charge more.

Conclusion – Keep it Safe and Fun 

Despite the increased risks, pools can be a source of enjoyment for your family for years to come. Invest in safety measures that will keep kids, pets, and adults safe around the pool so everyone can enjoy the pool without worrying.

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Updated November 6, 2020

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