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National Child Safety Expert, Alison Rhodes, “The Safety Mom,” is one of the country's leading child safety authorities, providing tips and advice to parents on a broad range of issues facing all children - newborns to teens.

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Summer Pool Safety
by Alison Rhodes

Summer has officially arrived! The minute school closed my kids were standing by our door with their swimsuits on and beach towels in hand begging to start swimming. And as much as I love summer and the time we spend at the pool, I'm always on my guard with my kids when we're near the water -- with drowning as the 2nd leading cause of death in children between 1 and 14, the statistics are just too frightening not to be. While I never want my kids to be fearful of the water, I've taught them to be extra careful around the pool, and I make sure to provide a safe environment for them to enjoy the water.

How? It's critical to use a layered approach that combines safety devices like fences and door alarms with education and attentive, careful supervision. Here are 10 things you need to know to do the same:

  • Eyes Wide Open. In many drowning instances, one parent thought the other was watching the child. Have the parent or caregiver who is in charge wear a wrist band as a visual reminder that he is in charge. Also, if you're having a party, designate a second person to serve as your backup in case you're called away - and of course let that person know if you do have to step away.

  • Set an alarm. Install a pool door alarm to warn you if your child has opened any door, window or gate leading to the pool without an adult nearby. An alarm should also be placed in the water which will alert you to any disturbance on the water.

  • Toddler 101. As soon as your child is able to crawl towards a pool he should be taught "pool survival skills." Unlike a traditional swim class this is designed to teach your child how to navigate back to the wall of the pool or the ladder if he was to fall in. However, this does not mean that your child will do this in an actual emergency - it is merely one more safety layer!

  • Learn the Basics. Every caregiver should be certified in CPR and First Aid. Don't forget that refresher courses are also necessary as guidelines change.

  • Phone Home. Install a phone near the pool so you don't have to leave the area to answer a call, or, if there is an emergency, you'll already have a phone nearby.

  • Don't Float. Avoid using flotation devices, like floating swimwear and arm floats, as they can give your child - and you - a false sense of security.

  • Fence it Off. Install a removable mesh pool fence around the perimeter of your pool. It should be at least 4 feet high and create a complete barrier between the pool and the home. It also should include a self-closing and self-latching gate.

  • Keep it Clear. Remove anything such as riding toys, planters and benches your child could use for leverage to climb over a fence. This includes outdoor furniture like tables and lawn chairs. Also, never leave toys that may be enticing to a child near the pool.

  • Cover it Up. Install a power safety cover over the pool that meets established standards from the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).

  • Lose the Ladder. For above ground pools, be sure steps and ladders leading to the pool are secured and locked, or even better, removed, when not in use.

Remember, these tips count for spas too! Like most things, once you establish good safety habits, they'll soon become part of your routine and your summer days will be filled with splashy, sunny, fun.

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