With summer just around the corner, many peoples' minds drift towards lazy days sitting by the pool or making a splash off the diving board. This summer dream can quickly turn into a nightmare due to an accidental drowning, and those who operate swimming pools need to make sure they're doing all they can to keep swimmers and poolside loungers safe.
Accidental drownings may seem like a rare event, not really worth worrying about or preparing for, but sobering facts show this is not the case. According to the Centers for Disease Control, just over 3,500 people - ten a day - drowned in the United States every year between 2005 and 2014. One out of every five drowning victims were children under the age of 14. For each child who drowned during this time period, five children were hospitalized due to underwater injuries. African-Americans between the ages of 5 and 18 drowned in swimming pools 5.5 times more often than their white peers.
Tort laws in the United States consider swimming pools an "attractive nuisance," which means that pool owners can be held liable for injuries to or deaths of trespassing children if the injury or death was caused by an object on the property likely to draw the attention of children.
Know that an accidental drowning is a possibility, and know the ways you can ensure pool safety.
Secure the Pool: One of the most basic yet most important precautions you can take is to install or maintain fencing around the pool area. Once your fence is up to snuff, make sure all entries and exits to the pool area are secured by locks - ideally instant self-closing and self-latching gates. Go one step further and attach alarms to the gates which will sound if someone enters the pool area unattended.
Buddy System: Children should never be alone in a swimming pool. Make sure children are always accompanied in and out of the water. Older children and adults who may not be the best swimmers should have a more experienced "buddy" who is equipped with the skills to save their lives should an emergency arise.
Going off the Deep End: Children can have a difficult time gauging the depth of a pool and can wander off into deeper parts of the pool where they may not be able to stand safely, causing them to panic. Clearly mark the depths of your pool, and make sure experienced swimmers are on hand who can guide children back to safer areas.
Dive Right In, Or Maybe Not: Unless your pool has an area at least eight feet deep, do not allow any sort of diving at your pool. Post clearly visible signs around the pool and at the edges of the pool itself that forbid diving. If your pool has deeper areas, the Federation Internationale de Natation recommends the following depth to board length ratios:
A 1-meter diving board should have an 11.5-foot pool depth.
A 3-meter diving board should have a 12.5-foot pool depth.
A 1-meter diving platform should have an 11-foot pool depth.
A 3-meter diving platform should have a 12-foot pool depth.
A 5-meter diving platform should have a 12.5-foot pool depth.
A 7.5-meter diving platform should have a 15-foot pool depth.
A 10-meter diving platform should have a 16.5-foot pool depth.
The Right Stuff: Life saving equipment should be easy to locate and easy to retrieve for situations where seconds count. Install life preservers, ropes with life saving rings, reaching hooks, and rescue poles around the pool area.
Keep it Clean: In January, 2017, a jury awarded the family of a 5-year-old drowning victim $3.1 million after a wrongful death trial which highlighted the inadequate cleanliness of the hotel pool in which the child drowned. According to a news report, the pool was so cloudy that the drains were invisible from the surface, and the 47-inch tall child "completely disappeared" in 56 inches of water. Not only should pools be cleaned regularly, pool cleaning chemicals should kept in a secure location when not in use.
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The information and claim examples given in this material are for illustrative purposes only and should not be construed to modify language of the insurance policy or in any way influence coverage analysis under the policy for any specific claim. The insurance policy contains the specific terms and conditions of coverage and supersedes any information contained in this document,. Some of the coverage mentioned in this material may not be applicable in all states or may have to be modified to conform to applicable state law. Some coverages may have been eliminated or modified since the printing of this material.