Summer is prime time for swimming—which means that it’s time for a refresher on community pool safety.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 346 children under the age of 15 drowned in pools and hot tubs in 2014. Of these fatalities, 252 were children younger than 5. Two-thirds of them were boys. In addition, near-drownings and other submersion-related incidents result in over 5900 emergency room visits for children each year across America.
So what can property managers do to make the pool a safer place for everyone—kids and adults alike? Here are 16 community pool safety tips to put into place this summer and beyond.
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- Install anti-entrapment drain covers. Make sure that your drain covers are compliant with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act of 2007. Virginia was the 6-year-old granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker. She was killed in 2003 when the suction from a hot tub drain caused her to drown. The federal law was named in her memory. Between 2012 and 2016, 17 people were trapped by drains, 14 of whom were younger than 15 years old. 2 of those victims drowned, both in residential spas.
- Use safety vacuum release systems with pool pumps. If the pump detects a change in vacuum pressure that could be caused by a person’s body, the pump will either shut off, or the system will inject air into the pump. This will free the person from the suction, thereby preventing drowning.
- Educate parents on community pool safety tips, including keeping children away from pool drains.
- Train staff on first-aid and lifesaving techniques. Have a Red Cross employee train your staff and any interested residents on community pool safety.
- Child-proof pool enclosures. Fencing around your pool area should be at least 4 feet high. Check for areas where older children could sneak through. Make sure that gates are self-closing and self-latching, with latches out of reach of very small children.
- Post community pool safety rules in a prominent location. In writing these rules, residential managers must balance community pool safety with the danger of discriminatory language. A blanket rule such as “No children under age 13” may not pass legal muster. This is particularly true in California, where we have at least two precedents: Iniestra v. Cliff Warren Investments, Inc. and Llanos v. Estate of Coelho. Both cases found that rules restricting children from using pool facilities without an adult, or keeping them away from adult-only areas, were overly restrictive and constituted prima facie discrimination. For more on this topic, check out our post Watch Your Language: What Can We Learn from Recent HUD Enforcement Actions?
- Enforce no-alcohol rules in your pool area. Give your security guards the authority to remove residents or guests who are disregarding community pool safety or abusing pool privileges.
- Don’t allow plugged-in devices anywhere near the pool deck or hot tub. You can also disable electrical outlets that are in close proximity.
- Prohibit glass containers in the pool area. One shattered glass endangers a lot of bare feet.
- Get a staff member certified in pool maintenance. Even if you subcontract pool maintenance out, it’s a good idea to have someone on staff educated in chlorination, sanitation procedures, and what it takes to maintain a busy swimming pool. Here’s a list of certified pool operator training programs from the Center for Disease Control and the National Swimming Pool Foundation.
- Check chlorine and pH levels at least twice a day with pool test strips. The Center for Disease Control recommends that you check for free chlorine (2-4 ppm) and bromine (4-6 ppm). The pH level should be between 7.2 and 7.8. This will prevent outbreaks of Legionnaire’s Disease, which can be caused by pathogens that develop in insufficiently sanitized water, and can spread via water vapor or droplets.
- Inspect pool equipment annually, such as pumps, drains, and heaters. Keep a logbook to track inspections.
- Inventory lifesaving supplies. Check to make sure that no one has stolen, vandalized, or lost your pool rings and rescue poles.
- Consider hiring a lifeguard. Outsourcing this to a lifeguard service may make sense from a liability perspective. Ensure that your vendor is insured and bonded. If your budget is tight, you can potentially hire a pool attendant rather than a trained lifeguard. You can learn about the differences between pool attendants and lifeguards on Guard for Life.
- Hire a pool management company. Again, a properly licensed, bonded, and insured pool management company can take the day-to-day load of pool maintenance off of your staff. It also relieves you of the hassle of storing large amounts of HAZMAT materials on-site. Furthermore, since they carry their own errors and omissions insurance as well as general liability coverage, their insurers will absorb any liability that may arise from pool-related incidents. A professional pool maintenance firm will also keep up with community pool safety-related federal, state, and local laws—something that your staff may not have time to do.
- Consider installing CCTV cameras to surveil your pool area. These systems are much less expensive than they used to be even a few years ago. They can feed directly to your security shed at night and help you to prevent after-hours incidents and lawsuits.
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