Safety Report: What You Can Do to Keep Kids Safe Poolside

Posted: Updated: July 22, 2011 11:20 PM EDT

Heading to the pool is one popular way to stay cool and public pools are required to meet a set of safety standards that the federal government toughened just a few years ago. But when your kids go to a pool party at a friend's home, that backyard oasis is barely regulated.

At the ACAC Adventure Central, the kids make a splash on a steamy summer day. More than 500 people pass through the water park every sunny day. Those crowds keep lifeguards on alert to make sure everyone stays safe in the water.

"Turning your back for a few seconds, they can run right for the pool," said ACAC Aquatics Director John Gallagher. Gallagher reminds the kids to slow down their pace from a run to a walk around the pool.

"The water makes things really slick. They can slide, hit their head and fall in the water that way," he explained. And out of control horseplay is prohibited. "We let kids splash and have a good time, but we try to keep them as safe as possible," said Gallagher.

There's no substitute for supervision, whether it's a public water park or your own backyard pool.

Fred Von Lewinski, of Charlottesville Aquatics adds, "It is very easy to make a safe pool." Von Lewinski says safety begins around the pool. The Albemarle County homeowner keeps the space clear and uncluttered.

"When you're walking around the pool, you have safe distance to walk around," he explained.

State code requires a 4 foot tall fence surround the pool with a self-closing, self-latching gate to keep little kids from getting in. Automatic covers can also keep kids from falling in. Underwater, some pools features a dual drain system. The suction power of a single drain can pull a child down to the bottom or trap swimmers with long hair. Older pools built before the government passed tougher guidelines do not have to meet today's safety standards.

Von Lewinski recommends pool owners call the pros to point out potential problems. He says they can "come out and do an inspection to let people know just how safe they actually are, because a lot of people don't know. They just don't have an idea about how unsafe or safe something may be."

At ACAC, Gallagher says swimming lessons are the first defense against those dangers in the water. "Everybody at some point in their lives should learn how to swim. I think it's one of those life skills that's good to know," said Gallagher.