Swimming Pool Safety

Parent Q&A

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  • vacation house pool safety

    (10 replies)

    Hi, we are staying at a rental house with family this summer that has an in ground pool and there does not appear to be a fence completely around it.  We have a 3 year old who is pretty good at listening/rules but is still 3, and I worry about the times we can't be vigilant like if he decides to go exploring while we're asleep.  Apart from being constantly vigilant, are there other solutions folks have found to safety?  Keep him in floaties all the time?  alarm the doors to the house with portable alarms?  is there some sort of portable fencing or alarms that could be bought in advance?

    Thanks for advice!

    Maybe the house has an alarm, which you'd arm at night, so you'd be alerted if anyone exits. Otherwise, I think this is a case where the house might not be a match for your family stage of life.

    It seems like there should be a fence and lock, or that isn’t safe and I would look elsewhere. Can you ask the rental owner? 

    Otherwise, maybe securing the room where the child is sleeping so that there is no chance of them being up while you are sleeping, which could be terrible for safety for reasons other than the pool as well. 

    I wouldn’t chance it with a pool and a young child…too many accidents happen in a flash.

    They make pool alarms you can buy off Amazon that will detect the immersion, which is a reasonable solution, but the reality is that I wouldn't necessarily rely on them. 

    Many pools have safety covers--it's generally against code to have neither a safety cover nor a fence; it's worth asking the rental host about it. 

    Hi, maybe you already tried this, but if not I would ask the owner if they have a fence that can be put up. We rented a house once and it turned out there were little holes all around the pool for a safety fence that can be easily removed or put in place. I would never have known if we hadn't asked. 

    Find a new place.  move on, and chalk it up to experience.

    Hi! Perhaps consider purchasing and bringing along a pool alarm. These are floating devices you put in the pool, set, and then it senses movement/motion in the water (like if someone were to get in, or fall in). The are LOUD enough to wake you up at night. Just search Amazon for "pool alarm" and you'll see many options. They look to be $150 - $300, so not cheap, unfortunately, but it might bring you some peace of mind. Good luck!

    We’ve been in this situation a couple times. We’ve brought safety gates (the tension-rod type) with us on vacation and installed them to block access to pools. Sometimes all access points can’t be blocked with a gate though. We’ve moved furniture to limit access points. And yes, we’ve brought floaties and had a rule that anytime our kid was outside the floaties had to be on, even if we were nearby. Our kids don’t get up and wander in the night so I didn’t worry about that. But if yours do, and you can’t completely block access to the pool, I would plan to alarm doors or bring child-proof door knob covers and sleep next to any door you can’t alarm or childproof. 

    My Dad’s house has a pool and 5 interior doors that exit into the pool deck. We stay in a room where the deadbolt locks from the inside with a key. There are also high locks at each door that my kids couldn’t reach even on a chair when they were small. And we were careful to not let our kids see how we unlocked the door when they were little.

    It was extremely stressful to stay there when our kids were little. I fished my youngest out of his pool on more than one occasion - she was required to wear a life jacket 100% of the time when outdoors. Still she managed to float herself face down once.

    I still find it stressful to stay there - almost even more now that my kids can swim a bit but don’t know their boundaries.

    In any case, a “vacation” where a 3 yr old can get to a pool is NOT a vacation. At least that was our experience. The constant vigilance required was a lot. The locks helped. Alarming the doors helped. The life jacket (NOT floaties) helped. But we were always on. And despite all that, we definitely have had a couple of scary incidents over the years.

    You're amazingly thoughtful.

    There's a pool alarm in amazon shopping.


    Too dangerous without a complete childproof fence around the pool. Nightmare scenario. Don't do it.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Grandparents' uncovered pool makes me nervous

 August 2010

My parents recently moved to a new home with a pool about an hour away from me. i used to spend a lot of time with them at their previous home. i have two small children under 5yrs, it was great having them watch my kids at the other home as i never worried. now that they have a pool that is not gated and uncovered i am a nervous wreck when we visit them. i'm afraid my kids will fall into the pool and drown when i'm not looking. my parents don't seem to understand my worries. they keep telling me to come to their place and relax while they watch the kids, but i can't. am i being overly paranoid? i feel like my relationship with them is just not the same because i don't visit as often. they visit me at times, but it is quite random. their house is large and i can easily lose my kids in it. so i am constantly worried if i don't see them. access to the pool is simple--there is a door that both kids know how to open that leads to the garden and pool. i would like to spend more time with my parents but it is just not relaxing. they refuse to put up a gate or anything permanent. i guess i understand as we don't go there more then once a month or longer during the school year. the pool has kept us away. my kids are in swimming lessons, but they are too young still for me to feel comfortable letting them wander freely around a pool. what other options are there for pool security that are removable, not so invasive, or too expensive? my parents would not be into anything that sticks out too much. i've heard about pool alarms--do they work? what about the wrist alarms? i feel that my relationship with them is not as strong as it used to be due to this darn pool that they haven't secured. i miss the times when our visits used to allow me to relax and now i'm just stressed when I see them.  - drowning

Bottom line: there is no amount of worry about an uncovered pool that is ''too much'' or ''paranoid''. I know a family who's 2 year old son drowned in the grandparents pool. Drowning is a serious and real threat and happens frequently. You should NEVER leave a child unattended near open water -- with the age of your children you have many many years to go before that would be safe. We went through this with my parents -- we simply told them to gate off their pool or we wouldn't hang out, period. They got a stretch gate that crosses their entire yard. They did it because they love us and want their grandkids to be safe. There isn't any way to tiptoe around this. It simply has to happen for you to be safe at your parents home. You are not being paranoid, you are being a good parent. Explain in strong and real language that this is critical to you and your kids safety and trust that your parents will care. Drowning is no joke

I had exactly the same problem with my parents and their pool. They refused to gate or cover it. (The said they didn't want the quarter-sized holes in their concrete desk, which is all that remains when you remove the fencing. Then a couple years later they ripped out the concrete anyway.) We tried an alarm, but it went off in the middle of the night, so it didn't work for us. (If you have to remember to constantly turn the alarm on and off, to me it's not effective.) I also agree that kids under 5 need to be watched every minute near a pool. And just like you, my relationship with my parents became less strong because of this issue, and it probably also effected their relationship with my children. Basically we just stopped going to their house unless I was with the kids every minute watching them. This went on for years. Now my kids are older (9 and 11) and the issue has faded, but the relationship change remains. Same situation, no answer

Your response is very healthy in my book, and it is hard to comprehend why your parents aren't respecting your very real concerns. All you are describing is a healthy protective instinct. One idea I have since your children are both quite young is to take a safety gate with you and install it at the back door or before it and insist on doing this during your visit. Also, what if an alarm were installed on the back door itself, so that if it is opened, you can be aware right away? How about an adult's level eyehook latch? (Is it just the one door by the way)? The alarms you write about, wrist or foot, can be better than nothing, but the postings mention at least two reasons for concern, that the child must fall in the water for the alarm to go off and that they are loud but how is your parents' hearing in such a big house? My daughter and I have stayed with my mom who has a pool, but her doors are difficult for even me to open as they require a simultaneous push of a button and turn of a latch that are stiff as heck! Your parents need to respect your wishes, bottom line, and I would remain present during all visits based on this irresponsible stance they are taking, which sounds like the material aesthetics of their home over safety? Did they take risks like that when you were little? If they refuse all the above and if it were relatives of mine, I might present articles and stats regarding drowning of children that age and how quickly it can happen and then say if they don't make changes they can visit you. You might also say that you are so hurt since they are showing you that they are cavalier and affecting your ability to trust them... Perhaps this sounds a bit harsh, but so is reality. Meanwhile, try to find a safe haven that is healthy and comfortable for you, because you still need your space to relax! You aren't paranoid, just a loving mama! anon

I felt the same way about my parents' pool. The compromise is I convinced them to get a net that anchors into the sides of the pool. That way they can take it off when we are not there, and do not have to have a fence, which my mom was very opposed to. The net is very secure and I have seen kids fall on it and literally bounce right off. I can not describe the piece of mind it brought me. It cost about 3,000, so maybe you could split it with them? Meredith

You are not being paranoid or overprotective to worry about young kids around a pool. My three year old brother fell into a pool and drowned while the babysitter wasn't looking. It can happen quickly.

I don't have any first hand experience with the pool alarms, but I would do some online research, take any additional recommendations you get here, and try something out. It should be easy to test at your parents pool, and hopefully it will give you some peace of mind so that you can go your parents' house in a more relaxed state of mind. And I'm sure I don't have to tell you that an alarm is no substitute for supervision.

Try to communicate to your parents that some extra security would make it easier for you to visit with the kids. Make them understand that you just can't make your worries go away with reassurances or rationalization, but that it has nothing to do with them. Fatal pool accidents are relatively rare, especially in supervised situations, but when they do happen there are no do-overs. It's worth being extra cautious and investing in some security, no matter how unlikely something could go wrong. KC

I feel badly for you. I would feel the same way as you. You can never leave kids unattended, even for a minute, around any water. You could tell your parents how stressful this is for you and how unhappy it is making you. I would do whatever you possibly can (with their understanding) to make it a safe place so you can continue to go there and visit and enjoy yourself. If that means always sitting somewhere where you can see the pool, installing alarms, adding kid-proof locks to the doors, putting a cover on the pool, so be it. Your #1 priority is their safety. If you can't make safe enough to turn your back for a minute, then when you visit, you just have to keep them very close to you at all times. I think you are being very reasonable - try to work it out with them. -Another loving parent

You are NOT being paranoid. Drowning is the number one cause of accidental death of young children in California. And it almost always occurs when children are under the watchful eye of caregivers. The fact that your parents refuse to put up a gate is a WARNING SIGN that they do not totally understand how serious an unsecured pool is for small children. I would NEVER leave my children in their care if you are not with them because they do not ''get it''. Even if they DID get it, I still wouldn't leave my kids there. I am in the same situation with my sister and I do not leave my child at her house, even when I'm desperate for a babysitter. And she does fully understand the risk of drowning, and I STILL don't leave my child there. It only takes 1 minute of distraction and poof... your life is changed forever.

If your parents are sincerely bummed about the change in your relationship, they should safety proof their pool. I'd skip the alarms, wristbands, etc. Those rely on you hearing it, lack of malfunction, getting to the pool in time, etc. AND DO NOT LET ANYONE MAKE YOU FEEL PARANOID OR GUILTY FOR BEING A RESPONSIBLE PARENT! YOU ARE THE ONE IN THE RIGHT IN THIS SITUATION. DON'T FORGET THAT. In the meantime, keep up the swimming lessons! anon

My friend has kids and his parents use something like this when the kids come to visit: http://www.advanced-pool- covers.com/ It's a pool cover that takes a few minutes to put on and take off, and their grandkids are safe. Your parents would only have to put it on when you visit. Andi

We just went through this. My parents have a pool in their backyard and didn't want to get a fence for it. I got more and more stressed and finally said we weren't going to come visit them again until they got a pool fence. It took them a month to do it once they figured out that I was serious. Previously, they installed a high lock (toward the top of the door) on the door leading to the pool. This wasn't acceptable to me as a permanent solution because they only ''mostly remembered'' to lock it but had they been good about it, I might have considered this good enough. It doesn't have to be a permanent structure. The one my parents got has rods that stick into the ground (which can be removed) with some sort of mesh between them. They can take the fence out when they don't need it. I don't think you are overreacting. Kids drown in backyard pools all the time. It only takes a minute. Anon

You are correct to be nervous - young children can drown before you even notice they are missing. I am not a nervous nellie but this is the one area that really makes me really nervous because so many of the drownings you read about happened to kids that were only out of sight for a few minutes. We sometimes go to parties at a friends with a gated pool and I have still seen way too many close calls! At this point I'm not sure I want to go to them anymore. Send you parents some articles on pool safety and kids that have drowned (there are a gizzillion I'm sure) . If they don't get it and get a gate, then tell them how stressful the visits are for you and you'll visit when the kids are older. And even if they do get a gate still be super vigilant. here's a great article by the way http://mariovittone.com/2010/05/154/ good luck!

We had a floating alarm in our pool, it would beep if a cat drank out of the pool...it wasn't really expensive and could be taken out when you and your kids are NOT THERE... I'd also pay to waterproof your kids...Years ago I had a lifeguard come to our community pool from CAL...I had a 3, 4 & 5 yo. their grandmother had an Olympic pool 8 feet deep ALL the way across...NO COVER and we had five weeks looming...at her house. In ten days, my kids could be picked up, thrown in the pool, roll to their backs and float to the side...it cost me about $300. My thought was I was buying time if someone fell in the pool... pool-mom

I am in the EXACT situation that you describe. My father has a big house with a pool that is not fenced in any way. My daughter is older now and can swim (but still vulnerable nonetheless) and we don't go there very often but when she was a toddler and pre-schooler it was hell. Visits were stressful because I basically could not leave her alone or take my eyes off her for a second. I took her to the bathroom with me and I slept in the same room with her and locked the door so she could not leave the room without me. My dad and his wife seemed oblivious to my concerns and made me feel like I was over reacting. They talked about getting a pool cover (which is not 100% fail safe) and put up a half ass partial fence but never addressed the situation appropriately. I finally stopped visiting them because it was clear that they were not going to make the pool safe. Our job as moms is to protect our children, period, even if that means protecting them from our own parents. Even as adults it is still hard to stand up to our parents but it just has to be done. Draw your line in the sand, if you don't feel comfortable going there, don't go. You can state your case politely and if your parents want to see you they can come to you. Needless to say, whatever hurt feelings result from this are nothing compared to a pool accident. anon

you are 100% right in how you feel and you are NOT being overly paranoid. if I were you I would set aside time to talk to your parents and calmly explain that the unlocked pool is objectively dangerous. If you can stand it (or have a friend do it) gather some articles about little kids drowning in just that situation - they won't be hard to find. If they don't want to put up a fence, I don't see another solution then to be constantly monitoring the kids. Therefore, I would also explain that to your parents, say you won't be able to come relax at their place while they watch your kids, but you are really looking forward to being able to do so in a few years when the kids are older. Then suggest they come to your place, or see if you can find a neutral place like a park between your homes where you can meet up. Good luck. in agreement

I am with you on that. I would be VERY nervous about having a non water-safe child in the setting you describe. I would probably not visit either, as I would feel that I would always have to watch my children (2 at that!) and could never relax. And I wouldn't trust another person - even my husband or the kids' grandparents, to be honest- to keep an eye on them, especially if the grandparents don't share your concerns. We have lost my 2 1/2 year old on 3 occasions, always on my husband's watch, when he got just a little distracted in conversation, and luckily there was not a pool involved in any of those cases. It can happen very quickly, and drowning is the #2 cause of death for small children (after car accidents.) You could insist on a life jacket while at the house, but that would probably be weird, and it is not 100% safe, as you could not be sure that the kids would be floated face-up. I'm sorry that I can not be more reassuring, but drowning scares the bejeezus out of me. Good luck. hydrophobe mommy

You are absolutely right to be concerned about an ungated pool with young children. There are less permanent type gates available that perhaps they would be willing to put up before each of your planned visits(sorry, hopefully someone else will post with specific ones). Additionally, you could ask that they install a deadbolt up high (really high, above kid on a chair height) on the doors that lead to the outside. Then, when you arrived, you could throw the lock. Definately stand firm for the safety and well being of the kids, their grandchildren, who should come first before the asthetics of their yard. I'm sorry this is stressful for your relationship with your parents--know that you're not alone as I quickly see that we are approaching this same point with my husband's parents and their pool. safety first

I don't think you're paranoid; I think your concerns are perfectly justified. It's as bad as if they kept an loaded gun in the home. I would be extremely worried about leaving my kids with my parents if, not only is the pool there, but that they refuse to put up a gate or feel that it is important. It means they don't have a sense of the seriousness of the issue. I grew up in Arizona, where lots of people have pools and young children die at terrible rates. It is a leading cause of death there. In AZ, locked pool gates are required by law, whether children live in the home or not, and children still die every day. Pool alarms are not enough. You're just going to have to be up front with your parents - tell them either they get a gate (you can offer to pay for it if that is the issue) or you'll have to wait until the kids are much older and STRONG swimmers, like age 10 at least, before they can be there without you. It IS said that your relationship with them is suffering, but it doesn't seem like it is worth putting your kids at such great risk. anon

This may sound silly, but buy your children life jackets and require them to wear it when they are visiting. It may look ridiculous, but at least you will have peace of mind in case they lose your sight for any period of time. Also, it will send a subtle message to your parents that you take this issue very seriously. anon

Dear ''drowning,'' You are right to be concerned. Unsecured pools are a serious danger to young children and I'm sorry to hear that your parents are unaware of this. You say that the way out to the pool is through a door to the garden. Would your parents be willing to install a latch on that door, high up where the kids cannot reach it? Then all you have to do is keep the kids inside while you are there (unless you are with them) and you won't have to worry. A friend My parents have a pool. When I had children I offered them a
pool fence as an anniversary present. They graciously accepted and we've all slept better since. They got the kind that has holes drilled into the cement and posts go into those holes. The fence itself is mesh-like and when it's taken off, it's hard to know that it was there in the first place. We paid several thousand dollars but I figure that's less than I would have spent on overnight sitters in the last 12 years and possibly CPR LOL. Happy to ante up Mom

I rec'd this email recently - Think drowning involves screaming, gasping, and flailing? Think it's easy to notice someone drowning? Well, you're wrong. Drowning is a silent killer. Many people would not even notice another person drowning at just 30 yards away. Response to drowning are undramatic and surprisingly quiet. Drownings are the leading cause of injury/death for ages 1-4. Even scarier in some drownings, an adult will have watched the whole process, not having a clue what was happening. Drowning Doesn't Look Like What You'd Expect-except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. Breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs. Their mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouth isn't above the surface of the water long enough to exhale, inhale, and call for help. When their mouth is above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouth starts to sink below the surface of the water. They cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water's surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe. They cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. When they are struggling on the surface of the water they cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help or moving toward a rescuer or rescue equipment. Their bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, they can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20-60 seconds before submersion occurs. Drowning signs:Head low in the water, mouth at water level. Head tilted back with open mouth. Hair over forehead or eyes. Eyes glassy, empty and unable to focus. Eyes closed. Hyperventilating or gasping. Not using legs. Body is vertical and upright. Trying to swim in a certain direction but not making progress. Trying to roll over on the back. Keep your eyes open for any oddities because even when things seem ok, they may not be. Ask who you're swimming with if they are all right. If they are rather still, do not answer or have a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them! As any parent knows, kids make noise in the water. If they are not making noise, find out why and get them out of the water ASAP. anonymous

When can we take down the pool fence?

August 2008

We are wondering when we would feel comfortable taking down our pool fence. The backyard just isn't as attractive with it up and we have an 8 y/o who is a compentent swimmer - not swim team-but can swim. I know that there are legal issues should some other child come into the yard, but we are more concerned about our own child accidentally falling in when outside. I would love to hear from pediatricians and the like as to what the customary response is these days. Anon

My father's realtor's nephew just died last week by falling into the neighbor's pool. The babysitter got distracted and he wandered into the next door neighbor's yard and fell into their pool (with no fence) and drowned. I don't know the legal issues, but I would urge you to leave the fence up. A pool is a very dangerous thing to small children, and safety precautions should be taken. Sarah

You should probably check with the city, but I would think that you need some kind of fence around your yard or pool, no matter who is living in the house--do you ever have small children to visit? Are there kids in the neighborhood who could wander into your yard? Catherine

You might not be so worried about other children coming in to your yard and drowning in your pool, but I am. I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and every summer at least one child died in that community from drowning in a pool -- often one who had wandered in from next door. And personally, my child would have to be much older than 8 before I would stop worrying about their safety around the pool, even if they know how to swim. a stickler for pool safety

I think it is very irresponsible for you to take down the pool fence, even if your 8 yr old is a good swimmer. Kids from the neighborhood might try to swim and could drown and it is never a good idea for even a good swimmer to consider swimming alone which could happen. I read in freakanomics that if you have a gun in the house with a swimming pool, the odds are that a drowning would occur more often than an accidental shooting. I also have very close friends of my family whose grandson fell into a pool and he has been disabled his entire life. It was a devastating thing to that family. Much worse than an ugly fence. keep that fence up

How about never. Or maybe you could get the super duper strong automatic pool cover and be super vigilant about closing it. anon

Visiting a home with an unguarded pool w/toddler

July 2008

Hi, My family including 15 month old babe will soon be vacationing in a home with an unguarded pool. Besides constant baby surveillance (by momma who's afraid no one else could watch as closely) what do you suggest to keep baby safe? The pool is way too large to use some sort of gate. Do i keep water wings on her the entire time? or some sort of life vest? Swimming classes? (We leave on June 19) Thanks b

Your note made me think of a situation that happened to us just this summer. My daughter is 5 years old and a better swimmer than me. We spent 4th of July at a lake at family. She was playing on a floating dock with cousins and fell off of it into the lake twice that day while adults were around.

The 2nd time she fell in, I was about 3 feet away and had my back turned for a moment. The scary thing is that I didn't even hear it. The way she fell in was about as loud as someone dropping a coin into the water. Luckily she didn't panic and swam back to the dock just fine.

My understanding with floating devices and water wings is that they alone are not enough and even the manufacturers recommend adult supervision. I guess my point is that these things can happen so fast and so quietly, that you don't want to take any chances.

My feeling is with any child under 3 or 4, you have to be in the water with them even if they have floatie type things on. With my daughter, we still have an adult in with her. Mom of a Swimmer Who Fell In

Keep a lifevest on your child (the kind that has the strap between the legs, and which cannot be slipped out of) and have her mother stay with her at all times, even in the house. Kids are so incredibly fast, and bad things can occur in a short time period. Nanny wishing you a safe trip

In-laws' pool and 2-year-old - Safety Turtle?

May 2008

We will be visiting my in laws this summer with our just barely 2 year old. My in laws have an unfenced back yard swimming pool. While the adults are good a closing and locking the doors, my young nieces will be there and are not as reliable. What can I do to make sure she is safe? Has anyone used the Safety Turtle wrist band system? Any other ideas? - Scared of the Water

I haven't tried the Safety Turtle myself, but I do remember that Consumer Reports tested it out and was not impressed with it as a safety solution for pools. The (very brief) report is here: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/home-garden/safety-security/pool-alarms-606/overview/index.htm?resultPageIndex=1=1=safety%20turtle

Instead, what about talking to your in-laws about increasing the security of the fence itself? You might try an burgular- style alarm that sounds anytime anyone opens the fence. Or maybe just lock it with a key/padlock during the period of your visit, so that an adult (instead of your nieces) has to open it, and can ensure that it gets re-closed. Pool-wary

Oh, honey! This is not some buy-an-easy-solution and it'll all be OK. You need to be within grabbing distance of your toddler every moment you're in that house, and have him wear a life jacket when he's outside, even if you're there too. There have been three toddler drownings in Antioch in the last six months alone -- the last was just last week when a not-quite 2-year-old toddler opened the sliding glass door *herself*, toddled out and fell into the pool.A fourth child, a Brentwood 5-year-old, was successfully resuscitated. Don't mess around. Jackie, www.ibabuzz.com/aparentlyspeaking/

We recently successfully used the Safety Turtle for a rented vacation house with an open pool. Three cousins aged 4, 2 and 1.5 wore the wrist/ankle bands (with some persuasion and focused convincing) 24 hours a day the whole time we were there. Once they got used to them they were no problem. We of course still supervised everyone, but it took a huge amount of stress out of the equation knowing that the alarm would sound if they fell or jumped in. The system works well - we tested it. You just have to take it off to wash their hands and make sure they don't suck on it, like my two year old was prone to do - he had to wear it on his ankle instead. There is no missing the alarm - it's LOUD. safe mama

Dear Scared of the Water \x96 I completely understand your fear and it is a healthy one. Based on your concern, you probably know that drowning is the 2nd leading cause of unintentional death for kids in the US. In states with warmer weather and more swimming pools, it is the number one cause of death for kids under age 5. For every child that drowns, four more are hospitalized for near drowning. Young children like yours are especially at risk\x97they\x92re curious and like to explore and that\x92s great for their development, but we need to make sure they do so in a safe environment.

I have a background in pediatric injury prevention. The way to prevent injuries is to have both adult supervision and a safe environment. You don\x92t say where you live but I would strongly encourage your in-laws to install a fence around their pool. In- ground swimming pools without complete four-sided isolation fencing are 60 percent more likely to be involved in drowning than those with four-sided isolation fencing.

I work at Home Safety Services, a Bay Area company that conducts in-home assessment and installation of safety products to reduce injuries for kids and seniors, but we also install removeable pool fencing. Our website is www.homesafety.net if you want more information.

On a personal note, I had a colleague who worked in injury prevention, actually in preventing drowning. Her young child died from drowning in the pool at a family party because everyone thought someone else was watching the child, and someone left the sliding glass door opened, and there was no fencing around the pool. I will never forget that story \x96 a horrible, horrible tragedy, which probably could have been prevented had there been a designated adult supervisor and a fence around the pool.

I don\x92t know anything about the Turtle. I did look on their website and my concern is that the alarm sounds AFTER the child is in the water. Childhood drowning and near-drownings can happen in a matter of seconds. While the turtle might be better than nothing, active, constant supervision in conjunction with fencing are strongly recommended when children are around water.

It is great that you are thinking about this before your trip. I don\x92t mean to be an alarmist but your fears are well founded. if you have any questions. For more information about water safety, check out www.safekids.org. Take care, Dana

Which is more dangerous? A gun in the house or a swimming pool? The answer- a swimming pool. If you are in such a situation it is far more likely that your child will drown in the pool than they will be harmed by a firearm.

You wouldn't take your child to a house with guns lying around? Yet you will consider such false safety measures as a ''pool turtle'' as a safety measure. My goodness they don't even have a fence around the pool. Don't let her out of your sight/reach for even a second. don't let her drown

Floatation devices for 2-year-old?

July 2003

At what age did your children start using floatation devices in the pool (with supervision, of course)? My daughter is almost 2 and is very comfortable in the water. I am wondering if she could use those water wings or some other kind of flotation device to keep herself afloat and also to paddle around the pool while we swim with her. Liz

I take my 16m son to swim classes at the YMCA. The instructors teach us parents how to properly use flotation devices with infants and toddlers and what is not safe as well. Plus they give us great tachniques, games, and ideas about how to safely and efficiently hold our babies and swim with them in the water so that they can become competent little water babies, blow bubbles, kick their legs, etc...Really fun and the water is WARM! Jessica

I'm not a fan of these devices--when I was a lifeguard, the only kids I ever saved from drowning were the ones whose parents used these habitually. The problem was that the kids didn't know they couldn't swim--so if Mom turned her back for a minute by the poolside, the kids would jump back in without the floaties and sink like rocks. I saw it happen again and again, and on one occasion had to hand off the dripping kid in order to resuscitate the hysterical parent.

I suggest that if you use flotation devices with your non-swimmer, you also go in sometimes without them, and give your child the experience of feeling what the water is really like. Even if it's a bit scary and your child clings to you--give her a taste of swimming without floaties, for her own sake. Former lifeguard

If you can by-pass using any flotation devices for your child then I would do that. Our oldest never used any water wings or anything else and is a great swimmer now at 4.5 years. Then we had twins. In order to avoid having one of the twins inadvertently sink to the bottom of the pool we put them in water wings (they are now 2.5 but we started them in the wings last summer at 1.5). One loves the wings and the other wants to swim on her own now.

Child-proof cover for swimming pool

Nov 2004

Can anyone recommend a source for very, very, very childproof pool covers? We are even willing to drain the pool and cover it up for many years. Someone told me she'd seen photos of a pool cover that kids could even ride their bikes on -- sounds good to me! If it matters, what we're dealing with is a 50-foot lap pool. Thanks! As an alternative to covering up a pool, . . . any ideas what would be involved (workwise, permitwise, moneywise) in FILLING IN a 50-foot lap pool? Thanks! Anonymous

If you are willing to consider pool fencing, try ''Protect a child pool fencing''. It is made of some type of mesh, held together by tension, and can be removed at a later date when your children are proficient swimmers. We installed two of these fences at both grandparents' houses. We requested the special butterfly locks that even our five year old cannot undo.Of course, short of filling in the pool with concrete, nothing will be 100% (a child can drown in a bucket of water if left unattended) but, as a very saftey conscious person and overprotective mother, I have been happy with this type of fence. Try to find the company online or thru the tunnel in Walnut Creek, LaMorinda area where pools abound. We have friends in that area with three children and the same fencing. Ask for the butterfly locks. Kelly

I don't know if you would be willing to consider fencing. My husband and I had fencing installed at both grandparents' houses. The company is called ''protect a child pool fencing'' The fencing can be taken down at a later date when your children are proficient swimmers. It is some type of mesh, held by tension. We requested the special butterfly locks that even our five year old can not undo. Of course, around the pool, nothing is completely 100 % secure (can be accidently left open, etc.) but children can also drown in a bucket of water if left unsupervised. I am overprotective and paranoid about safety issues and have been pleased with this type of fencing. Try to find the company online or thru the tunnel in Walnut Creek area. Blythe

How to baby-proof a swimming pool

April 2002

Hello: I am seeking input on the best way to baby proof a pool. We are in the inspection period for our dream house. There is only one issue, it has a pool & it is freaking me out since we have two young children. Can anyone give any input on the permanent fences vs. the newer fences that can be taken down? Are both a fence & a pool cover required? Our kids are taking swim lessons (although I'm certainly not relying on this) & we will be putting high locks on our doors. But, in a perfect world I would like the kids to be able to play outside unsupervised at times. If there is a fence, can the kids play in the yard by themselves? I'd appreciate any thoughts on pool security.

For kidproofing, a fence is never enough. Learning to swim is never enough. Electronic alarmed water sensitive T- shirts won't do it either (they take them off). You need to do all those things and also remain constantly paranoid. Of the three children I knew well who have drowned - one was from the days before pool fencing and the other two were visiting at other people's houses. The one without the fencing was my four year old cousin, who had been taught to swim the summer before, but watching the pool being refilled in spring, bent over too far. One of the more recent ones was revived because the pool-owner raised the alarm. The parents then had a year worrying that his slowness in starting to speak was brain damage. In the third case the pool-owner raised the alarm but it was too late. Toddlers will fall into any body of water that's available to them. My daughter at 2 could climb any pool fence, and never bothered with latches. Children up to the age of 8 need to be watched closely, and after that if they're poor swimmers. Fiona

if you have a pool you obviously have to be vigilant. one solution is to get a swimming pool cover, with the key installed at a height only an adult can reach. the pool is only open when an adult is on duty: present and paying attention. when the adult leaves, they close it up. the covers are very strong, a child falling on it will not tear it. good luck. jo anne

Mosquitos & standing water in toddler pool

July 2003

I am very concerned about mosquitos (and west nile virus), and I am very careful not to leave standing water around anywhere. However, we have a little inflatable pool for our toddler, and I really hate to empty it out every time we use it. I don't like to waste the water, and I like it to warm up over the course of a few days, and I have noticed in the past that the racoons like to walk through it with muddy paws if it is not full. So, my question is, do I really have to empty it completely every time? How about if I add a bit of chlorine to it? Would that kill any larvae? What kind and how much would I add, and how often? If I did add chlorine, would that then be really bad to dump out on the grass every few days or so (I do empty it when it gets too buggy and dirty anyway)? I do not want to harm any wildlife, beneficial bugs, or the birds that eat them! I'm also concerned about my son swimming in and accidentally swallowing any mosquitos or larvae. What do others do with these pools? Thanks! Tracy

We have a toddler pool in our yard as well and have decided that filling it up each time and draining the water immediately after our kids get out is the only way to prevent a drowning accident. Obviously, I don't know where your pool is and whether your toddler can access it without your help, but before making the decision not to drain, I would run through all the various scenarios to make sure there is no way your child (or any other child) would try to get in while you aren't watching. Small children can potentially drown even in only a couple of inches of water, even if they can swim in a normal pool, so I'd recommend extreme vigilance around this issue. Melissa

We empty the wading pool after every use, and make a game out of using buckets to transfer most of the pool water onto the dry grass or into potted plants. I am concerned not only about critters getting into the water, which my daughter could swallow (or worse, whose waste my daughter could swallow), but also about drowning risks with other neighborhood children (or even my daughter, in a moment of inattention). water emptyer

Have you tried covering the pool at night with a tarp or something?? Anon

You don't need to change the water every day, it takes a while for the larva to become mosquitoes. Changing it once a week should be fine. anon

I have three comments: 1) Have you ever seen any mosquito larva in your pool? I have always been under the impression that mosquito prefer stagnant water, not fresh water. If there are larva, you will certainly see them. 2) I don't know if the chlorine or chloramines that are put in municipal water is enough to kill the larva, but you could ask the Alameda County mosquito abatement program. 3) Why not just put a cover on the pool? This would also make it safer for toddlers who might play near the pool ( I have read that toddlers can easily drown in just a few inches of water.) Gen

Regarding the toddler pool standing water, I would leave it up to a week without worry. We do, and we're still using it extensively! You could add very small amounts of chlorine or iodine, but I agree that if you repurpose it to water plants & lawn, you don't want to harm them. My greatest concern is small toddlers waddling into the pool and drowning, and so it should be in a safe location. Robert

Gary Bogue has a column in the contra costa times. he says changing the water every 3 days is adequate for preventing mosquitos. You can probably find his info on-line. eve