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Eric Douglas: Stay safe in summer pools

Summer is here, and, judging by the number of pools I see for sale at local retailers, the demand for home pools is growing.

These easy-to-install, above-ground pools are getting bigger and deeper every year, too. They are also reasonably priced, making them accessible to a lot of families, especially with small children.

And that’s the problem.

While the boxes and the instructions that come inside include warnings and guidelines to keep you safe, I am sure most people who have them never bother to give those alerts more than a cursory glance.

According to the American Red Cross, more than 200 young children drown in backyard pools every year. A baby can literally drown in a half-filled, five-gallon bucket of water if left unattended. And unattended doesn’t mean ignored for half an hour. All it takes is a few minutes for a small child to get in a pool unnoticed for tragedy to strike.

These are some safety measures you need to take with a backyard pool. If they are too much of a bother for you, please don’t get a pool. Go to a public pool where lifeguards are on duty to help keep you safe.

The following is some of the key recommendations from the Red Cross:

• Secure your pool with appropriate barriers. Completely surround your pool with a 4-feet high fence or barrier with a self-closing, self-latching gate.

• Place a safety cover on the pool or hot tub when not in use and remove any ladders or steps used for access. Consider installing a pool alarm that goes off if anyone enters the pool.

• Keep children under active supervision at all times. Stay in arm’s reach of young kids.

• Designate a responsible person to watch the water when people are in the pool -- never allow anyone to swim alone.

• Have young or inexperienced swimmers wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.

• Ensure everyone in the home knows how to swim well by enrolling them in age-appropriate water orientation and learn-to-swim courses.

• Establish and enforce rules and safe behaviors, such as “no diving,” “stay away from drain covers,” “swim with a buddy” and “walk, please.”

• Ensure everyone in the home knows how to respond to aquatic emergencies by having appropriate safety equipment and taking water safety, first aid and CPR courses.

Eric Douglas, of Pinch, is the author of “Return to Cayman,” “Heart of the Maya,” “Cayman Cowboys,” “River Town” and other novels. He is also a columnist for Scuba Diving Magazine and a former Charleston Newspapers Metro staff writer. For more information, visit or contact him at


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