Pool Safety: The Essentials

Written by Michael Dean
April 3, 2023

swimming pool safety checklist

Swimming pools offer fun for children and adults alike when enjoyed safely, but they can also be hazardous and even deadly when used irresponsibly. You need to keep certain things in mind while enjoying time in and around your pool to keep your family safe. If you don’t have a pool yet but are considering installing one, there are safety precautions you should be aware of before making such a commitment and financial investment.

In this article, I will go over the ground rules for safety and the pool equipment that can keep your children safe before diving into some other safety tips.

Main Takeaways

  • There are 1.2 million people drowning victims around the world every year, of which 50% are children and 50% of which occur in or around the home.
  • To keep your kids safe around the pool, supervise your children at all times, teach your children how to swim, learn CPR, and teach children to stay away from pool drains.
  • Some equipment that can help with safety include: fences, alarms, pool covers, float liners, life preservers, and pool safety hooks.
  • You should regularly inspect drains and drain covers, maintain pool chemistry, prep a first aid kit, and take the pool safety pledge.

Why Pool Safety is So Important

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), an average of 10 people die of non-boat-related drowning incidents every day in the United States. Around the world, 1.2 million people die from drowning annually, according to the International Life Saving Federation (ILSF), and 50% of drowning victims are children. To break it down even further, of that 50%, a third of those deaths occur in or around the home.

These statistics are bleak, and that’s not even considering how many people are seriously injured and sometimes permanently disabled due to nearly drowning. Worse still, more often than not, these deaths and injuries are entirely preventable if proper safety precautions are in place.

Ground Rules to Establish to Keep Your Kids Safe Around the Pool

Pool safety doesn’t have to be complicated. Putting a few basic rules in place for you and your loved ones can keep everyone, especially your kids, safe without spoiling their summer fun. I’ll discuss each of the rules in detail below, but to begin, I’ll start simply by listing the four simple ground rules to establish before enjoying your pool.

  • Supervise children in the water at all times
  • Teach your children how to swim
  • Learn CPR
  • Teach children to stay away from the pool drains

Supervise Your Children In the Water at All Times

Never leave a child unattended in the water. According to the CDC, 1 in 5 people who die from drowning is under the age of 14. Always make sure a responsible adult is watching your child while they are playing in the water. If you are attending a gathering and there will be children there, make sure all the adults or at least several designated adults are attending the children.

Make sure the adults who are watching the children are not consuming alcohol. Even small amounts of alcohol can slow response time. It’s a good idea to have designated supervisors as you would a designated driver if you were consuming alcohol out with friends.

The importance of supervision isn’t only for large pools; even a small child in a splash pool could drown if they slip and get knocked unconscious. There have also been incidents of very young children falling asleep in pools and drowning because they don’t wake up in time, and their face ends up in the water.

Make sure your children know that if there is no adult present, they can’t be in the water. Any amount of water that is large enough to cover the nose and mouth can be a drowning hazard for a child, and you should treat it as such.

Teach Your Children How to Swim

I highly recommend investing the money to get your children professional swimming lessons if you can afford it. Many local YMCAs offer seasonal classes both for children and adults taught by licensed instructors.

If you live in an area where there is a state park with a swimming area, your child may be able to attend swim classes there. Some towns have a community pool that holds programs for residents to learn how to swim as well.

If you can’t afford to get your children professional lessons, at least have an adult in your family who is a competent swimmer themselves teach children to swim. However, even with professional lessons, there’s no guarantee, so you should still supervise children in and around the water.

Learn CPR

Unfortunately, even with careful supervision, accidents occur. It is for this reason that it’s a good idea to take a CPR training course. A quick web search can give you listings of local CPR training courses you can attend. Although it varies by location, a basic CPR course offered by the American Red Cross without anything additional will cost you under $100, with materials included.

Often, local community centers or religious organizations will have licensed instructors come in to do a course on-site. You can also check with your local volunteer emergency squad to learn about CPR courses. If you are in the healthcare or educational field, many employers will offer CPR training at little or no cost to their employees.

Most CPR training programs don’t need to be a long-term commitment. The courses usually only require a few hours of your time, unlike other safety courses that require multiple sessions for several days. Sometimes companies even offer online CPR courses, though in-person classes are more common.

At the end of the course, you will take a test the same day, and provided that you pass the test with the required score, you will be CPR certified. You must renew your CPR certification every two years by taking a refresher course.

Teach Children to Stay Away From the Pool Drains

While you are probably used to telling your children not to run near the pool, jump in headfirst, or swim alone, a sometimes overlooked pool safety hazard is the pool drain. Pool drains are necessary for keeping the water clean and sanitary, but they present a safety hazard in themselves due to the suction power of the drain.

The hazard is especially prevalent for small children. If a small child gets too close to the pool drain, the suction can potentially trap the child underwater. While it is rare, parents and other caretakers need to be aware of it as it often results in serious injuries when it does occur.

It is a good idea to show your child what the pool drain looks like and explain the importance of staying clear before they even begin playing. All drains should have proper covers.

Equipment and Other Safety Precautions

Along with establishing ground rules for keeping your children safe in the pool, you can purchase various pool safety equipment to take additional precautions. Here are some examples of pool safety equipment you can buy to keep everyone safe and enjoying the pool all summer long:

  • Fences
  • Alarms
  • Pool covers
  • Float Lines
  • Life Preservers
  • Pool Safety Hooks


Requirements for yard fencing in residential areas for residents who own swimming pools vary by municipality. You will have to contact your local zoning board to see what the specific requirements are for your area.

However, in addition to yard fencing, it is essential to keep children in your home safe too. An excellent way to do this is to install a pool fence directly around the pool that children cannot open without an adult.

According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), the recommended height of a pool fence is a minimum of four feet, but taller is preferable.

Pool fences come in a variety of materials. Based on your needs and your price range, a pool fence company can recommend the best material for your fence.


A variety of alarms can also be installed in and around your home and pool area to protect your children further. The available alarms include pool alarms, gate alarms, and door alarms. It is good to check with local authorities to make sure that the alarm you’re planning on installing is legal in your area, as the rules for alarms vary depending on where you live.

Pool Alarms – These are alarms installed around your pool area to prevent children and pets from gaining access to your pool unnoticed.

Some pool alarms float on the pool water’s surface and pick up on disturbances in the water caused by people or animals entering the water. There are also sub-surface alarms that you can permanently install that work similarly to the surface alarms. You can read my guides on pool alarms 101 and the best pool alarms for more tips and recommendations.

Gate Alarms – These are a type of alarm that you install directly on a pool gate if you have one. Gate alarms sound once the gate has been open for a few seconds. The alarms feature a button you can push so adults can go in and out freely without the alarm going off.

However, ensure you install the gate alarm high enough so children can’t reach it and press the button themselves to turn off the alarm.

Door Alarms – As the name suggests, you install door alarms on doors and windows leading to a pool area. The alarm will sound anytime the door or window opens unless someone pushes the override button.

Some alarms go off immediately when the door is open others have a built-in delay of several seconds to give you time to override it, but again you have to make sure the alarm is out of the reach of children, so they can’t push the button themselves.

Pool Covers

Another easy safety precaution that you can put in place is a pool cover. It’s important to note that not all pool covers are safety covers. The type of covers you use to cover your pool in winter or the solar covers you can purchase to keep out debris and regulate the water temperature are not safety covers.

For a cover to be considered a safety cover, it must meet specific safety standards regarding how much weight it can hold per square foot. Safety covers come in both mesh and solid varieties for both inground and above ground pools. Both types of covers will require you to have decking around your pool, as you need to be able to anchor the straps into something.

There are certain advantages and disadvantages to each type of safety cover.

Mesh Covers

Mesh covers require less maintenance because debris tends to blow off, and rain and snow can drain through the mesh. Also, water won’t collect on these covers eliminating shallow water hazards since it only takes about two inches of water to pose a drowning risk. Mesh covers also tend to be lighter than solid ones, making them easier to put on or remove.

However, because the mesh covers are more like a screen, dirt and smaller debris can get through even though larger debris won’t. You will likely have to clean your pool more than you would with a solid cover that won’t let anything through.

Solid Covers

Solid covers will keep your pool cleaner, but they require more maintenance to stay safe. Water has to regularly drain off the cover to prevent it from collecting and causing the cover to sag. Some solid covers have a few mesh panels built in to help the cover drain, and others even have automatic pumps that pump water off the cover when water is detected.

Float Lines

Float lines are also called safety lines or rope-and-floats. Float lines are often used in community pools and outdoor swim areas to provide a visual barrier between the shallow and deep ends of the pool or indicate where a natural swim area drops off.

If you have a large pool with shallow and deep ends, a float line can prevent children and weaker swimmers from accidentally going into an area where the water is over their heads.

Life Preservers

Life preservers come in both jacket and throwable flotation devices. Jacket types are usually used more in boating and water sports than in pools. However, if you are nervous about your child’s ability to stay above the water surface, you can certainly provide your child with a snug-fitting age-appropriate life vest to wear in the pool.

Throwable life preservers are for giving quick assistance if a swimmer is distressed and out of easy reach. Unfortunately, they have their limits and aren’t ideal for non-swimmers. It is best to have life preservers and other safety measures rather than solely relying on life preservers for pool safety.

Pool Safety Hooks

Pool safety hooks almost resemble a cowboy lasso attached to a long metal pole and work similarly.

Many professional lifeguards have pool safety hooks to reign in swimmers who are in trouble and out of arm’s reach. It offers the rescuer more control than a throwable life preserver because it is easier to maneuver and can be angled more precisely to reach the person in distress.

In addition to establishing safety rules and having safety equipment in place, you should also follow other safety procedures to keep your pool safe for everyone to enjoy.

Inspecting Drains and Drain Covers

You should always inspect drains and drain covers at the start of the season and regularly throughout the season. Ensure all drains are working correctly and not blocked up with debris; also, be sure all drains have covers.

Check the manufacturing date on your drain covers to make sure the installation was within the past seven years. Drain covers shouldn’t be damaged. All the screws should be present and securely fastened.

Maintaining Proper Pool Chemistry

Your pool’s manufacturing guide can help you determine the proper chemistry for your pool. You should test your pool twice a week to ensure the alkalinity, pH, free chlorine, and cyanuric acid are at safe levels. If they aren’t, add the necessary chemicals and keep testing until everything is at the proper levels.

You should also make sure your pool pump is running continually or for a minimum of 10 hours a day, and at least once a week, you should clean the pool and make sure filters are free of debris.

Prepping a First Aid Kit

If you plan on spending a lot of time poolside this summer, it’s good to have a well-stocked First Aid Kit on hand. That way, if an injury occurs, you’re not scrambling to locate the supplies you need. In addition to the typical band-aids and alcohol swabs below, you should include some additional items in your kit according to the Red Cross:

  • Compress Dressings
  • Cloth tape
  • Gauze pads
  • Roller Bandages
  • Instant Cold Compress
  • Blanket (in case of hypothermia)
  • Breathing Barrier (for use in CPR)
  • Oral Thermometer
  • Non-latex gloves

Take the Pool Safely Pledge

The Pool Safely Campaign is a public education campaign meant to help reduce the risk of drowning and submersion injuries by teaching the public to follow proven safety and sharing the best water safety practices.

The campaign has introduced two simple Pool Safely Pledges, one for adults and one for children, to help them remember how to stay safe while enjoying their pools with friends and family this summer. You can get all the details and take the pledge yourself at poolsafely.gov/pledge/.

Drowning Prevention Resources

According to the CDC, three children die every day due to drowning. Below are some great resources to learn more about drowning prevention.

Final Words

Spending time at the pool is a great way to have fun with your family and cool off during the hot summer months. However, to keep a day of fun from turning into a day of tragedy, you must take certain safety precautions to protect yourself and your family.

By following safety rules, having and maintaining proper safety equipment, and ensuring your pool is regularly and adequately maintained, you and your family can make some great memories and continue enjoying your pool for years to come.

Questions about pool safety? Drop me a line, and I’ll be happy to help as much as possible.

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