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CPSC Reminds Pool Owners that Barriers, Supervision Prevent Drowning

Release Date: July 03, 1997

The dream of owning a home with a swimming pool can become a nightmare when a young child drowns in that family pool. About 300 children under 5 years old drown each year in residential pools nationwide. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reminds pool owners, especially those with small children, there are steps they can take to help prevent these deaths.

"The keys to preventing these tragedies include placing barriers around your pool, closely supervising your child and being prepared in case of an emergency," said CPSC Chairman Ann Brown.

Physical barriers designed to limit access to pools provide an important layer of security. They may give parents additional time to locate the child before the child can reach the pool. Effective barriers include fences or walls, and power safety covers over pools.

Fences and walls should be at least 4 feet high and installed completely around the pool. Fence gates should be self-closing and self-latching. The latch should be out of a small child's reach.

If your house forms one side of the barrier for the pool, then doors leading from the house to the pool should be protected with alarms that produce an audible sound when a door is unexpectedly opened. A power safety cover, a motor-powered barrier that can be placed over the water area, can be used as an alternative to door alarms.

For above-ground pools, steps and ladders to the pool should be secured and locked, or removed when the pool is not in use.

"Barriers are not foolproof protection from accidental drowning," Brown said. "Supervision also is key to prevention, especially with toddlers. Because their capabilities change everyday, toddlers often do the unexpected, like opening closed pool gates they previously could not open."

A child can drown in the few minutes it takes to answer the telephone. Drownings occur quickly and silently, often without any splashing or screaming.

Flotation devices are never to be used as a substitute for supervision, and knowing how to swim doesn't make a child drownproof. Watch children closely while they are in the pool.

If a child is missing, always look in the pool first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability. Keep rescue equipment by the pool, and be sure a phone is poolside with emergency numbers posted.

Parents and other caregivers, such as grandparents, babysitters and older siblings, who know cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can greatly improve a drowning victim's chances for survival.

CPSC offers two free publications to help prevent child drowning: "Safety Barrier Guidelines for Pools" and "How to Plan for the Unexpected." Consumers can obtain copies of these publications by sending their names and addresses to "Pool Safety," CPSC, Washington, DC 20207. These publications also can be obtained by calling the CPSC Hotline at (800) 638-2772 or accessing CPSC's website at

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The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC’s work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 40 years.

Federal law bars any person from selling products subject to a publicly-announced voluntary recall by a manufacturer or a mandatory recall ordered by the Commission.

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