When I was eight or nine years old, I was at our pool with my younger brother and I noticed he was upside down in an inner tube with his little legs kicking furiously in the air. A lifeguard was watching in a chair right above him. It looked like my brother was just playing, but his head was underwater and he was stuck. I swam over and uprighted him, but how long could it have taken for the lifeguard or the many swimmers and parents around us to realize what was happening?
While my brother was just coughing and scared when I tipped him over, many children aren’t so lucky. As you plan your first pool party of the season, be sure to incorporate safety into your preparations. Just in time for National Water Safety Month, here are four tips.
1. Designate lifeguards. Make sure you have someone or several people who are responsible for oversight. These can be parents or actual lifeguards. In fact, some pool companies will provide you with certified lifeguards to watch over swimmers while you focus on hosting. If parents or siblings are designated, organize shifts and talk before the party about expectations such as no distractions like cell phones. Most important, do not leave children unattended in the pool or by the pool at any time.
2. Provide life jackets. Don’t rely on your guests to ensure their little ones who can’t swim aren’t leaping into the pool. Put a lifejacket on all kids below swimming age when they arrive if they are playing in the pool area.
3. Keep safety equipment on hand. The Red Cross recommends having reaching or throwing equipment, a first aid kit, life jackets and a cell phone available.
4. Clear pool rules. Sit down as a family and create your pool rules. Good rules to start with are no running, no pushing, no glass and no children in the pool area unattended, but you may develop additional ones, as well. Then make sure your party guests are aware of the rules.
Finally, remember that you can still have fun while being serious about safety!