Child Pool Safety

There are several tiers of safety that you can employ to keep children and young people safe in a pool environment. These include adult supervision, regulating access to the pool area, restricting access to the water and using alarms. These measures are further elaborated below.

Adult supervision

According the NDPA (National Drowning Prevention Alliance), supervision for children during activities involving water (for example, while in the pool) and activities not involving water (for example, poolside) require different approaches.

Here are some non-water related guidelines:

  • Never leave a child unattended near or by water. This includes not only the pool itself but also accessories like spas and even toys like buckets. These are all potential drowning hazards.
  • Make the same considerations in all pool environments, whether at a public pool, on vacation or at another’s home.
  • Remind other persons responsible for children, for example babysitters or caregivers, of these safety measures.
  • Check the pool and surrounding area first if a child is missing.

Water-related activities pose a serious risk to children, even when adults know they are in the water and are close by, sometimes even in the water, too. Here are some safety measures to consider during water-related activities:

  • Try to keep within an arm’s length of very young children and toddlers.
  • At least one adult should be given a role whose sole responsibility is to watch children in the water. The designated adult should give full attention to this role, free from any distractions, including conversing with others.
  • Safety devices like floats or inflatable rings should not be considered a substitute for adult supervision.
  • If you are hosting a large gathering that involves swimming in the pool, consider acquiring a certified lifeguard for the occasion.

Restricting access to the swimming pool area

Ensuring a safe pool environment means, first and foremost, allowing only those with permission into the pool area. Consider these tips in preventing unauthorized or unwanted access:

  • Consider erecting a fence around your property’s perimeter. Unfortunately, a perimeter fence does not restrict access to children living in the property.
  • A more secure boundary is a fence surrounding the pool itself, creating a separation between pool and house.
  • Fencing can be constructed from several materials. These include wood, wrought iron, aluminum and Plexiglas. Removable mesh fencing is an affordable option and is a good option if children do not live permanently at the property.
  • Any fence should adhere to local safety codes. This includes a height of at least 60”. Verticals bars on the fence should prevent a small child from fitting through and any horizontal bars should be far enough apart as to not act as steps. The lowest horizontal bar should prevent a small child from crawling under.
  • Any items that may be used in climbing a fence (chairs, tables, bins) should be kept a safe distance from the fence and secured in their place.
  • Check that children or animals are not able to dig under the fence.
  • Regularly inspect the fence for damage or wear and tear that could lead to a breach.
  • Any gates to your pool should include a locking device. In addition, they should be self-closing and self-latching.
  • The latch release on a gate should be set at a height that is out of reach to children. If the gate uses a locking device, it should be locked when the pool is not in use. Any key to the gate should be kept away from children.
  • House doors that provide access to the pool should offer similar levels of safety to gate doors.

Limiting access to the water

On top of restricting access to the pool area, addition steps can be taken to restrict a child’s access to the water.

  • Pool safety covers should meet the ASTM International voluntary standard F1346-91. Keep animals, children and any other object off the cover at all times. Covers should be checked and maintained regularly, including the removal of rain water.
  • Safety covers can be power-operated, which are the most convenient option, or semi-automatic or manual. The latter two require significantly more care and upkeep.
  • Net covers allow the pool to be serviced without the need to remove the net. However, net covers also need a great deal of maintenance.
  • Winter safety covers, made of vinyl or mesh, cover the pool during the off-season. These covers must be inspected regularly. Vinyl covers need to be pumped frequently to prevent the accumulation of water on the cover.
  • Above ground swimming pools are typically accessed via a ladder. Ladders should be removed or secured when not in use. They should never be accessible to children without adult supervision.


Alarms are an essential part of making your pool area an even safer zone. Unauthorized access to the pool can be brought to the attention of adults with alarms that can be attached to windows, gates, doors and the pool itself. Alarms, while not preventing access to the pool, provide an extra layer of safety by notifying adults of unauthorized access.

  • Doors, windows and gates leading to the pool should be fitted with alarms.
  • An alarm can also be fitted on the surface of the pool. These alarms float on the surface and detect motion in the water. These alarms are known to be activated by wind and rain and, therefore, they should be used in conjunction with other alarms.
  • Sub-surface alarms are placed under the surface of the water and are activated immediately once someone enters the pool.
  • Alarms can also be placed directly on children. These alarms will sound once wet. It is recommended that personal alarms are used as an additional layer of security rather than relied upon in isolation.

Additional safety measures

  • Keep a phone poolside for use in an emergency.
  • Basic CPR and rescue breathing training can save lives. At least one person poolside should be certified in this field. Anyone who is left in sole charge of children while poolside should know CPR and rescue breathing.
  • Pool owners should keep a shepherd’s hook and life-saving ring poolside. It is also a good idea to keep instructions on how to use this equipment nearby.

More safety tips

  • Never swim alone. Adults and children alike should always be accompanied by another in case of an emergency situation.
  • A pool should not be used for dangerous behavior such as diving.
  • Toys and other items should be removed from the pool and the area around the pool.
  • Inflatable toys and devices should not be considered a substitute for authentic lifejackets.