Swimming Made Simple. And Safe!

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Pool Safety

Firstly, let me be clear. This article is not intended to be the end-all regarding pool safety. I just want to hit on some key issues and points that are frequently ignored or overlooked.

About that service call…

So, you have a service call scheduled regarding a leaky filter. You say you may not be home when we arrive, so “I’ll leave the gate unlocked or open for you.” Whaaa…???

We hear this all the time. The reason your gate locks is to make sure nobody gets in. Period. So, here’s an easy remedy. Get a second lock—the bicycle kind with three or four 0 thru 9 spinny tumblers. Make that your go-to lock used only by service technicians that come to your home. When scheduling the visit, give us the combination of that lock. After we’ve gone, remove it and replace it immediately with your normal lock. This way, you can safeguard your entrance and help maintain the security of your property.

Safety ladders only work when used properly.

Another thing we frequently see is an above-ground pool with a safety ladder. You know the kind. The inside is in a fixed location leading into the water. The outside swings upwards, making it difficult for a small child to get into the pool. Most ladders slip into a position requiring a slight lifting action to get them to drop again. Take this safety measure a step further. In the ‘up’ position, use a bicycle chain and lock to keep it in place. Unfortunately, we see many pools with the outside ladder always in the ‘down’ position. Take an extra ten seconds and lock it ‘up’ when you are done swimming.

If you have a deck around your above-ground pool, you certainly must have a step system to get up top. Make sure the steps are enclosed on the sides, keeping anyone from crawling through. Then add a lockable gate to deter unwanted entry. And lock it with…you guessed it: a bicycle chain! Really, I should get royalties on bicycle chain lock sales. They are truly versatile. Keep the combination a tightly held secret that only a few know. The adage “The more, the merrier,” does not apply here.

Know the pool’s safe zones.

If you will be swimming in an unfamiliar pool, take a minute to check it out before jumping in blindly. Many in-ground pools have deep ends for diving boards, but the pool gets progressively shallower away from the deep end. Many of these shallow zones are only a couple of feet deep. NEVER dive headfirst into any pool (or other body of water) unless it is into a designated safe diving zone. As for above-ground pools, feet first or cannonball is the rule.

If you are enjoying a night-swim, make sure you have some illumination that allows you to see the bottom clearly. Most in-ground pools now have one or more underwater lights. Above-grounds have lots of options that are very inexpensive. No light? No swim at night, especially if you are swimming alone.

Speaking of seeing the bottom…

If you are swimming in a pool that has a ’little’ algae issue, clear it up before entering. Yes, it might take a couple of days, but that will be incentive to pay closer attention to the water’s chemistry. I’ve seen some pools so thick with algae that I couldn’t see my hand just six inches deep. Those pools might take a little longer to clear, and when the green is gone, expect cloudy water. Again, don’t go in until you can see clearly. Moreso, so that anyone else swimming or spotting can see you.

Extension cords.

Avoid them around the pool. A licensed, qualified electrician should do the work of installing properly insulated electric service with a ground fault (GFCI). Too many above-ground owners start out using a temporary extension cord to power the motor. Many times, the homeowner lets these become permanent. It’s cheaper, and “What’s the harm?”

The harm is two-fold. Firstly, you will shorten the life of the pump motor due to a constant amperage drain. Buy a new motor to replace an almost new motor and see how long it takes to call that electrician. Secondly, the safety factor is immense. Extension cords get frayed or nicked by lawn tools and mowers. This can allow a stray current to travel directly across your yard. Not. Good.

In closing…

Pool ownership and swimming is great fun when done responsibly. Fortunately, this is most of the time. Every summer in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky there are hundreds of thousands of safe swim sessions. There are very few incidences. We’d like to see that miniscule number drop to zero.