by Carla Hill
Great summer memories are made in the backyard pool. Everyone, no matter their age, can enjoy cooling off and taking a dip.
Swimming is a great way to spend time together as a family and it's a perfect way to beat the heat. Precautions and care should be taken, however, to ensure all parties stay safe.
First, be sure your children (and any adults) know how to swim. Most community recreation centers and YMCA's offer swimming lessons. Parents who are proficient swimmers may even choose to become their children's swimming instructor at home. Making it a fun experience can take the pressure off the child. Everyone can learn how to swim, it just takes time and patience.
In the instance, though, that you have guests or children you can't swim, be sure they stay in the shallow end of the pool or that they wear a lifevest.
Remember, teaching children how to swim doesn't guarantee their safety. Children must be watched at all time when they are in a pool. Drownings and accidents can happen in a matter of minutes. Simply stepping inside to answer a phone call can be enough time for a child to slip into the pool and drown.
If an accident does occur, be sure that whoever is watching the children, be it a sitter or yourself, is trained in CPR. From the Red Cross to the American Heart Association, there are a number of organizations that offer certification classes.
For extra safety during any play-date or party, have an "on-duty" lifeguard at all times. That means at least one adult is in charge of watching the children at any given time. Consider taking shifts and sharing the responsibility with other parents at the gathering.
As a second line of safety, keep your pool area in tip-top shape. Toys should always be picked up, so as not to be a temptation for children. There are also numerous security features on the market. Many homeowners have security covers or fences installed to keep children and pets from entering the pool area. Fences should have gates that latch and are child proof. If you don't have pets that will trip them, alarms are a great way to keep track of who is in the pool area. Perimeter alarms can be set to sound when a subject is within a foot or so of the fence or pool. Motion detectors can be even more sensitive and will let you know when any child has made their way to the backyard.
Next, having a family discussion about pool safety is important. Talk about dangers of pools, what is off-limits and when, and what to do if someone is injured. You may even want to have practice drills. Children should always know how to call 9-1-1 if needed as well. There may come a time when it is the adult that needs help.
As the last stage of safety, be sure that you have the correct amounts of chemicals in your pool. Too much chlorine can injure your eyes and is hard on your body. Too few chemicals and you could have a breeding ground for bacteria. If you lack confidence in your own ability to maintain the pool, be sure to contract with a professional who can come weekly to clean the pool and adjust chemical levels.
The bottom line is accidents happen fast. Be sure to take all the necessary precautions that will make your summer fun ... and cool!