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Swimming is a fantastic sport and leisure activity which many adults and especially, children love. Try keeping an energetic child out of a swimming pool if it is available, regardless of how blue their lips are with cold!

Even within the confines of a public swimming pool with other swimmers nearby and all Health and Safety standards/government legislation adhered to, including life-guards, drowning does occur.

With private/home pools, children are at the highest risk, younger children who escape supervision for a moment and fall in and older children who deliberately access the pool area whilst unsupervised are most at risk. However adults who are under the influence of drink or drugs are also at risk.

Indeed, concern is such that some countries have introduced legislation to ensure that home pools are fenced. French and Australian legislation states a minimum of 1.1 meter high fence with vertical rails of no more than 500mm apart must be installed. Any gate/access points should have a child-proof latch or lock and a self-closing mechanism.

Should a door from the house open directly onto the pool area, then this should be kept locked when the pool area is unsupervised. While these measures should ensure that toddlers cannot gain access to the pool, they will not stop a determined older child from accessing the pool but they may act as a deterrent.

Pool covers can operate as a safety feature, depending on the type of cover installed, however, soft covers, whose purpose is to prevent heat loss and exclude debris, will not offer any protection from drowning and may in fact exacerbate the problem. Someone falling into a pool with a soft pool cover may slip beneath the cover making it more difficult to get out and less likely that they will be detected.

Steps which can be taken to reduce the risk of a tragedy in a private/home swimming pool:-

• Fence the pool area and ensure that entry points are installed with locks which are either childproof or at adult height
• Warn children of the dangers of a swimming pool and the need to have an adult present
• Teaching children to swim will help however, it does not fully eliminate the risk (even children who could swim have been drowning victims)
• Always make visitors aware of the pool (particularly those with children)
• Install suitable and sufficient lifesaving devices
• Lock pool plant room and balance tank access points
• Learn rescue techniques, basic first aid and know who to phone in an emergency.
• Discourage swimming after a heavy meal, alcohol or drugs

Whilst fences and covers can offer some protection against children drowning in pools, there is no substitute for active and constant supervision, particularly of children.

If you remember only one thing from this article, consider that more children from the UK drown in hotel and villa pools abroad than drown in public pools at home. When booking accommodation for your holiday be sure to ask about pool safety from the owner or agent.
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The author owns a Cyprus holiday villa equipped with perimeter fencing to the newest standards and locking entry gates.
Esentepe Seaside Villa