County of San Diego
Graduation is over, the kids are out of school and the warmest summer months are just around the corner. It’s swimming pool time!
San Diego County’s Department of Environmental Health inspects roughly 4,000 public swimming pools and spas every year to make sure they’re clean and safe. Because they inspect only public pools and not private residences, they won’t be coming to residents’ back yards. But they can share some helpful hints.
So, for those have a pool, here are a few tips to help make sure it is safe for themselves, their family and any friends who may stop by.
- Rule number one, watch the kids: The pool is a place for fun. But every year children get seriously hurt or even drown in residential pools all across the U.S. So parents should teach their kids how to swim (and learn themselves if they don’t know how). If their house opens directly into a pool area, they should install a door alarm to alert them when a child opens it. If they don’t already have a fence between the house and pool, they should consider putting one up. Kids wander around a lot and can find their way into the pool even if they’re out of sight for only a minute. But most importantly – when children are around the pool, or in it, someone should always watch them. And remember, water wings, Styrofoam “noodles” and other toys are not safety devices and children wearing them should not be left unattended.
- Check the fences: If there is a fence and self-closing gate around the pool, check to make sure the spaces between each of its pickets and between the bottom rail and the ground are no more than four inches apart and the fence is at least five feet tall so children and animals can’t squeeze through or climb over to get into an unattended pool.
- Make sure pool drain covers are visible and intact: If a pool owner can’t get a clear look at their pool’s drain covers, they won’t be able to see a distressed swimmer under the water or a person entrapped on a drain – and their pool water needs cleaning! If they can be seen, make sure they’re not broken or chipped and remind children not to play near them so they can’t get sucked in and trapped.
- Have two pieces of safety equipment: Every pool should have two essential pieces of safety equipment: a life ring (life preserver) with a diameter of at least 17 inches that can be thrown to help struggling swimmers stay afloat, and a safety hook to pull people to safety. Pool owners should also consider keeping a phone at the pool while swimming so if they need to make an emergency call, they can do it quickly.
- Repair any damage to decking, equipment and pool area: Make sure pool ladders and pool railings are secure so people aren’t hurt when they rely on them to get in and out of the pool. Repair damage to decking to prevent people from tripping.
- Test your pool water routinely: Keeping the pool safe is more than protecting against drowning and physical accidents. Pool owners need to keep their pool water clean, too, so people don’t get sick swimming in dirty water. Testing the chemical balance of the water in a pool is one of the most important things they can do to make sure it’s up to par. That’s because that balance – which keeps the water disinfected, clean and safe – can be easily thrown out of whack by heavy use, hot weather, rain and lots of other things. To keep a pool safe, test the chlorine and pH levels at least twice a week and daily if possible.
- Don’t swim if sick: Chlorinating a pool only does so much. Pool owners need to keep germs out of the pool by practicing good hygiene and not swimming when they have diarrhea. If there is an accident in the pool, they need to be sure to clear the pool and follow guidelines for proper cleaning of the water.
- Skim, brush and vacuum the pool: It will not only make the pool look like a mess, it could make it tougher for the chemicals to keep the water clean. Swimmers can carry in sunblock, oils and other items. There’s dust, sediment and leaves blowing in the air that can all make it a lot harder for the filtration system to keep things clean. So use a hand skimmer to clean the pool’s surface, brush the walls and vacuum its floor often. Don’t forget to remove any leaves and debris in the skimmer baskets.
- Keep your deck clean: It only stands to reason – the less mess there is on the deck surrounding the pool, the less stuff that can be blown or carried into it. A good sweeping will go a long way to keeping a pool looking pristine.
- Keep the pool filter clean: If a pool has a cartridge-based filter, make sure to check, clean or replace the filters when they’re dirty. If using a sand filter, make sure to backwash and clean the filter screens when they need it.