Swimming Pool Safety

Enjoying the swimming pool in Andalucia. © istock
Enjoying the swimming pool in Andalucia.

Swimming Pool Safety

Swimming pools are a standard feature of life in southern Spain. It’s easier to find an apartment complex with a pool than without one. Most villas have their own pools and, in addition to pools, water features are common in both public and private gardens. And then there is the luxury of a jacuzzi, enjoyed by many homeowners.



Water complements our lifestyle in this hot climate. It’s cooling, refreshing, therapeutic, even healthy, but it also poses an enormous threat to young children. Every year, we have reports of drownings across the region – and most of these tragedies occur at a child’s own home or at the home of a friend or relative. Children can have water accidents with parents and other adults present – and even supervising them! They can silently sink to the bottom of swimming pools, jacuzzi’s and other bodies of water in the time it takes to answer a telephone, change clothes or grab something to drink. The results can range from brain damage to death.

Adult Supervision

Fences and walls around pools do not prevent accidents. They only make it more difficult for an accident to happen. Adult supervision is the only way to ensure the safety of a developing child who is continually trying out new skills and testing all limits.

Adult supervision requires more than the presence of an adult. Many child drownings occur when one or more parent is present. A child can even drown while a parent is in the pool – if that parent is not actually watching the child. Supervision, therefore, requires actively paying attention to what children are doing at all times.


Fences, walls and other barriers should be seen simply as devices that buy time. A U.S. report on child drownings showed that 77 percent of victims had been missing from sight for only 5 minutes. This is a tragedy that happens quickly and silently. The key, once again, is knowing where a child is at all times.

Walls and fences are not childproof as they can be scaled, circumvented and their doors and gates represent an important weak spot. Best to see these simply as “layers of protection” that give you more time to locate a child who has moved out of sight.

Pool Covers

Most pool covers are not safety devices. In fact, pool covers can contribute to drownings by trapping victims in the water.

The only pool cover recommended by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission for safety purposes is a Power Safety Cover:
“A power safety cover is a motor powered barrier that can be placed over the water area. Motor-driven covers easily open and close over the pool. When the power safety cover is properly in place over the pool, it provides a high level of safety for children under 5 years old by inhibiting their access to the water.

“Power safety covers over the pool may be used as an alternative to door alarms. A power safety cover should meet the requirements of the ASTM pool cover standard which addresses labeling requirements and performance. ASTM requires that a cover withstand the weight of two adults and a child to allow a rescue should an individual fall onto the cover. The standard also requires quick removal of water from the cover. A young child can drown in just inches of water.”

Pool Safety Nets and Alarms

If used properly, pool safety nets can provide one of the most effective layers of protection between your child and the pool. Safety nets can also offer a level of protection from accident for inebriated adults or accidental falls. Pool alarms in good working order can be helpful and gate/door alarms may also be useful as long as they are not turned off or otherwise misused. However, once again: there is no substitute for adult supervision and these devices should not bring down a parent's guard.

Tips for Parties and Family Gatherings

It is crucial to appoint someone to be the pool “Life Guard” at any social gathering. Adults are involved in conversation. Hosts and hostesses are looking after guests. Children are busy playing. Whether or not the pool is the centre of activity, someone needs to be in charge of keeping track of the children at all times. While every drowning is a tragedy, those involving birthday parties and other events often come as a particular surprise as it’s hard to believe such accidents really do happen in the presence of so many people.


It is not common for young people to provide babysitting services in southern Spain. Children are generally cared for by more mature nannies or left off at nurseries or other special child minding centres. If you hire a babysitter to come to your home or leave your child with a sitter who has a pool or other water feature on site, be sure to fully educate him or her regarding the risk that water poses for your child. It is also important to discuss why barriers, alarms and nets or even a child’s ability to swim should not create a false sense of security. Also stress the importance of constant and active supervision.

Swimming Lessons

Swimming lessons provide an excellent opportunity for kids to be self sufficient in the water. But swimming lessons do not provide a guarantee against drownings. Once again, adult supervision is key – even for the strongest swimmer. Keep in mind that children of all ages are forever busy testing their abilities and trying out new tricks. Accidents can happen and for this reason, an adult needs to be on site at all times.

It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your child at swimming class as well, especially if the group is large or the teacher inexperienced. As unbelievable as it might seem, from time to time a tragedy is experienced at swimming class, with an instructor failing to notice that one child has remained behind or is no longer with the group.

Toys and Flotation Devices

Even though flotation devices clearly warn that they are not safety devices, they still create a false sense of security. Beware that even the youngest children will remove water wings – or get another child to help them do so – at the most unexpected moment. Floating rafts and toys can also make it difficult to keep an eye on children. When leaving the pool, take all toys with you to avoid attracting kids back to the area in search of missing playthings.

First Aid and Emergency Equipment

It is essential to have first aid training, particularly CPR – cardio pulmonary rescusitation – training in order to handle the unexpected. Contact your local red cross or check English language press to locate instructors and form a group in your area, if necessary. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends and babysitters all need training.

It is also essential to have basic safety and emergency equipment near the pool, for example a life ring attached to a rope and a telephone with emergency service numbers posted nearby.

Safe Habits

Finally, form safe habits in your family when it comes to locking doors and gates leading to swimming pool areas and never, ever proping one of these accesses open – not even for a few seconds.

Use this information at home. Share it with friends and relatives. And remember to ask whether or not there is a pool before leaving your child off at a birthday party or a new friend’s house. Not everyone has the same safety rules.

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