Pools are great for play, exercise and therapy. However, it is critical that while enjoying ourselves, we take appropriate safety precautions.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 275 children nationwide under the age of 5 drown in swimming pools annually, and more than 4,100 children receive medical treatment for pool-related accidents, the majority of which occur in backyard pools. Luckily, building codes and standards can help.

“Building codes are life savers and as the leading building codes and standards developer, we are accounting for every facet of the home, which includes specific provisions to make pools and spas safer,” says Dominic Sims, CEO of the International Code Council.

To drive the importance of water safety home and ensure individuals are having safe pool fun, the Code Council shares the following tips:

• Install fences and protective gates: To ensure the pool area is inaccessible to unauthorized swimmers and children when there is no supervisor, install a fence at least 4-feet high around pool and spa areas with a self-closing, self-latching gate or door. Move all chairs, tables, large toys or other objects away from the perimeter that would allow a child to climb up to reach the gate latch or enable someone to climb over the fence.

• Keep safety devices nearby: Always keep basic lifesaving equipment handy (pole, rope and personal flotation devices) and know how to use them. These aids should be kept on both sides of the pool and should remain stationary – not be misplaced through play activities.

• Install alarms: Install alarms on all doors and windows to detect unauthorized access from the home into the pool area. You can also install a pool alarm to detect accidental or unauthorized entrance into the water. While the alarm provides an immediate warning, it is not a substitute for the barrier fences, door and window alarms or safety covers. 

• Remember safety covers: Install an approved safety cover on any pool. For the safety of all individuals, do not allow anyone to stand or play on it.

• Be code-compliant with drain covers and grates: To help identify compliance with current standards, all pool and hot tub drains must have a cover or grate marked with the appropriate product marking, including the service life in years and an information label that is provided to the pool owner. Not having a compliant cover could result in some part of a swimmer’s body being entrapped in the in the drain – a dangerous situation that could result in injury or drowning. If a cover is broken, missing or noncompliant, the pool should be closed immediately, and a replacement should be performed by pool professionals.

• Ensure an existing pool has safe suction outlets: Pools and spas with a single drain – other than an unblockable outlet – must have a certified blockable suction outlet and one of the following: a safety vacuum release system; a suction-limiting vent system; a gravity drainage system; or other safety features that comply with industry standards.

• Secure the proper permits for a pool installation: If you’re installing a pool, it will be important to contact your local building department first to determine what permits are needed and what requirements you must follow.

“With warm weather here and families spending more time at home, a pool offers hours of fun for everyone,” says Sims. “In addition to adult supervision, safety code compliance helps ensure a safer, more enjoyable pool experience.” 

For more building safety resources, visit iccsafe.org.

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