Pools are an excellent way to pass the hot summer days with friends and family. A disaster at the pool can completely change your life. There are a number of actions that can be taken to help make your pool safer for all to enjoy. In most cities there are ordinances regarding how to maintain a pool in a safe manner. This often includes a requirement that the pool be fence appropriately to keep unauthorized individuals and children away from the open water when unattended. In addition, it is important to have a safe pool cover and that potential entrapment areas of the pool are eliminated.
Enclosures and Fencing
There are no current federal laws in place in relation to pool fencing within the United States. While most cities and towns require that there is fencing or an enclosure around pools, particularly those that are in ground, each requirement is a little different. With over 200 children a year under the age of five losing their lives to pool accidents, it is clear that choosing the right fencing and enclosure for your pool is important. The International Code Council has created some safety standards that many communities adhere to.
In most communities it is required that you have a fence around the pool of at least four or five feet in height. In some locations it is also important that the fence is made of specific materials that are harder to climb such as cast iron and some wood. Some pool fencing comes in aluminum, fiberglass, steel, vinyl or PVC. The width of the fence rungs must be small enough that a child cannot get through. The number traditionally used is four inches. The middle rung of the fence running horizontally should be a minimum of 45 inches from the bottom rung of the fence. The bottom rung must be two inches or less from the ground.
While every community has different requirements the standard requirement for distance from the water for a fence is that they are at least 20 inches from the edge of the pool or the water. Most places require that the fencing around the pool is such that it completely surrounds the area with no gaps. Some, but not all, locations require that the fencing have at least some part of it as permanent requiring that there be major excavation or tools to remove the fencing.
Access to the pool area outside of going through the building attached, must be done with the help of a proper gate. Gates should be self-closing and self-latching so that it cannot be accidentally left open. All gates must open out away from the pool area and be of a certain height from the ground.
When it comes to the gate closing mechanism it is vital that the latch is at minimum 54 inches away from the ground or bottom of the gate. In addition, the latch should be on the pool area side of the gate and it should be at a minimum three inches below the top of the gate making it hard for children to reach from the outside. There must not be an opening between the gate and the fence larger than half an inch within 18 inches of the release.
As can be imagined, the electrical conditions around a pool area are of great concern when it comes to safety. It is important that the requirements for grounding the electrical around the pool area be followed very carefully. Obviously there is a need for electricity running to and from the filter and pump area of the pool. All pump motor receptacles should be located between 6 and 10 feet from the inside pool wall. These receptacles should have a single twist-lock outlet that is GFCI or Ground Fault protected.
The receptacles for an outside pump need to have a true weatherproof cover that is easily closed even when the cord for the pump is plugged in. In all cases it is important that the circuit line is directly connected to the circuit panel box and that it is separate from the other receptacles in the box. Pump wire is required to be #12 AWG insulated copper grounded wire or more. It must be in conduit to avoid unprotected power.
In most cases a convenience outlet of 15-20 amps should be located between six feet and 20 feet from the outside of the wall of the pool. The outlet must be separate from the pool pump or filter receptacle and must be GFCI protected. The outlet should be weatherproof or have a weatherproof cover wherever exposed.
Buried cables and wiring from the pool to the building should be buried at least 18 inches below the surface. This includes UF cable and electrical PVC. Metal conduit must be at least 6 inches in depth from the surface.
Grounding the pool itself is also an important part of making sure that it is safe. Any metal parts on the pool should be bonded using a #8 solid copper wire at minimum. All pool shells considered to be conductive should be bonded with at least four equal points spaced around the pool. All non-conductive pool shells should have a #8 solid copper wire buried between four and six inches below finished grade with wire placed 18 to 24 inches from the pools inside wall around the pool. All bonding points and attachments should be using non-corrosive clamps for the job.
GFCI for Pool Lights
Pool lights make your pool look beautiful in the night and the facility the ability to swim in the dark of night. This being said, there is an importance to making sure that your pool lights are GFCI. Ground fault interrupt is an important part of making sure that your pool is safe for swimming even if there is a problem with the electronics. It sends a signal to the breaker and shuts down the power if there is a danger of shock due to exposure to moisture. All pool lights should have GFCI breakers. This is really a job for a professional and you will want to seek help if you do not have this important safety feature.
Rescue Equipment for Your Pool
Nobody wants to think of a time when they might need to rescue someone from their pool. This is something that can’t wait until the time comes and that you should be prepared for. In many communities it is required that public pools and some private pools have certain safety and rescue equipment on hand and accessible. Some of these items could save a life when you need it. While some might think that jumping in after someone that is drowning is a good idea, it often can cause problems and make it hard for both individuals to make it to safety.
One of the recommended items for the use poolside is a non-telescoping shepherd’s hook that is at least 12 to 16 feet in length. This is used when an individual needs to be pulled out of the water if they are unable to swim to safety. This pole is typically made of fiberglass or anodized aluminum so that it is not too heavy. It is equipped with a rubber tip and should not be used on victims that are drowning, but instead on individuals that are having trouble or are struggling. The shepherd’s hook is attached to the end of the pole to allow you to wrap it around the victim and pull them to safety.
Floatation Devices are Essential
You should also be sure that you have some kind of a floating ring or similar device on hand so that you can pull someone in when necessary. Floating rings should be 17 to 24 inches in diameter and intended for floatation. If it is not intended for floatation it will get waterlogged and sink. It should not be stored in the pool for best results. It should have a rope attached to allow you to bring them to the edge of the pool. Having some sort of buoy around that can be thrown the individual in a hurry is also a very good idea.
A pool alarm is also an excellent piece of equipment to help you prevent a disaster. When set the alarm will give you a warning sound if someone falls into the pool. This means that you can get on the scene right away if a child is near the edge of the pool and falls in without you realizing. This is a must have for anyone that has small children and in many communities it is a requirement.
When it comes to being prepared for the worst you will want to make sure you are ready with items such as flexible tubes that are often referred to as noodles and other easy to use devices that can be given to someone having trouble breathing or swimming in the pool.
It is wise to make sure that you have a towline nearby the pool, yet out of the way of being dangerous. This towline can be thrown to anyone in danger of drowning in the pool so that you can pull them in immediately. The towline should be polypropylene and float so that it is not easily lost by the victim. Most lines are 3/8 to ½ inches in thickness and should be at least half the length of the pool at its widest point. Keeping the line neatly coiled in a safe place nearby is the best way to make sure it is ready for you to throw out in an emergency.
Of course you should always have a phone close by when you are in or around the pool. This is the best way to make sure that you are getting the help that you need quickly. Take the time to be sure that you have all of the information you need on hand in the event that someone else is making the call. Your address and the telephone number should be on or near the phone so that the person calling for help has it right away.
While a pool can provide you with hours of great fun and a good way to cool down in the hot summer months, letting tragedy strike without taking precautions is a mistake. Being careful to follow simple safety rules and making sure that your guests do the same can really make for a good time. Having all of the important safety equipment nearby will bring you the peace of mind that you need when you have guests in your pool. You don’t have to have a lifeguard on duty in your own backyard, but being prepared for the worst is important. In commercial situations safety is paramount and a life guard may be warranted.