Swimming Pool Safety

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Warns backyard pools can be a fatal attraction to toddlers drowning is a leading cause of death to children under 5.

Washington, D.C. - About 350 children under 5-years-old drown in pools each year nationwide, and over half of these incidents occur in June, July and August. Among unintentional injuries, drowning is the second leading cause of death to this age group after motor vehicle incidents. Another 2,600 children are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year for near-drowning incidents. Most of these cases involve residential pools. The CPSC wants to reduce the number of children drowning this summer.

Many people assume that, at a residence with a pool, the danger of drowning occurs only when the family is outside or using the pool. But, a common scenario takes place when young children leave the house without a parent or caregiver realizing it. Children are drawn to water, not knowing the terrible danger pools can pose.

"Drowning happens quickly and silently, often without any splashing or screaming," said CPCS Chairman Ann Brown. "It can occur in just the couple of minutes it takes to answer the telephone."

The key to preventing these tragedies is to have layers of protections. This includes placing barriers around your pool to prevent access, using pool alarms, closely supervising your child and being prepared in case of an emergency. CPSC offers these tips to prevent drowning:

  • Fences and walls should be at least 4 feet high and installed completely around the pool. Fence gates should be self-closing and self-latching. The latch should be out of a small child's reach.
  • If your house forms one side of the barrier to the pool, then doors leading from the house to the pool should be protected with alarms that produce a sound when a door is unexpectedly opened.
  • A power safety cover - a motor-powered barrier that can be placed over the water area - can be used when the pool is not in use.
  • Keep rescue equipment by the pool and be sure a phone is poolside with emergency numbers posted. Knowing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can be a lifesaver.
  • For above-ground pools, steps and ladders to the pool should be secured and locked, or removed when the pool is not in use.
  • If a child is missing, always look in the pool first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.
  • Pool alarms can be used as an added precaution. Underwater pool alarms generally perform better and can be used in conjunction with pool covers. CPSC advises that consumers use remote alarm receivers so the alarm can be heard inside the house or in other places away from the pool area.

Additional Publications & Contacts

CPSC offers three free publications consumers can use to help prevent child drowning: "Safety Barrier Guidelines for Pools," "How to Plan for the Unexpected" and "Guidelines for Entrapment Hazards: Making Pools and Spas Safer." Copies of these publications can be obtained at CPSC's website or by writing to "Pool Safety", CPSC, Washington, D.C., 20207.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission protects the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death from 15,000 types of consumer products under the agency's jurisdiction. To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury, call CPSC's hotline at 800-638-2772 or CPSC's teletypewriter at 800-638-8270, or visit CPSC's website. For information on CPSC's fax-on-demand service, call the above numbers. To order a press release through fax-on-demand, call 301-504-0051 from the handset of your fax machine and enter the release number. Consumers can obtain this release and recall information at CPSC's website.