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A Clear & Present Danger

For children 5 and younger, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death, and California leads the nation.

June 15, 1997|DAN GORDON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Dan Gordon is a Culver City freelance writer

"She said, 'That's not going to happen to me,' " Glass recalled.

For optimum safety have one person watch only the water when children are present and wear a tag that reads "Water Watcher." Another person watches the kids. When the "Water Watcher" is relieved the tag is passed on so that it's always clear who is responsible. Available free: (714) 532-8887.


How to Set Up Protective Barriers

Here are some of the types of products that pool and spa owners can install as protective barriers:

* Fencing. Generally considered the most effective precautionary measure, fencing isolates the pool and spa on four sides.

Most backyards are already fenced on three sides, so this would involve adding a fourth between the pool and the house. The fence should be at least 5 feet high, with vertical bars that are no more than 4 inches apart. It should include a self-closing, self-latching gate (with the latch out of a child's reach) that opens outward. It should not be climbable, and no object that could be used to aid in climbing should be nearby.

Aluminum fences generally run $25 to $30 per linear foot, wrought-iron fences $19 to $25, and nylon or polyvinyl mesh $15 to $20.

* Safety covers. Automatic covers are preferred, since they are easier to use--with a flip of the switch, the pool is covered. They should bear the approval of the American Society of Testing Materials and should not be the bubble covers that are unattached and can be dangerous.

Water that collects from rains or sprinklers should be pumped off regularly, since even a puddle poses a drowning hazard.

While automatic covers cost about $5,000 to $6,000 for a 15-by-30-foot pool, some of the cost is returned: The cover reduces the need to run the filter, change the water and add chemicals; it also can raise the temperature of the pool without the use of a heater.

* Alarms. Placed on doors and windows leading to the pool area, alarms are typically battery operated and respond when the door or window is opened without the alarm being deactivated. Touch pads that temporarily deactivate the alarm should be placed out of the reach of children. Alarms can run less than $100, plus installation.

* Infrared detection. Wireless infrared detection systems sound when an area around the perimeter of the pool is crossed. They cost about $300.

* Door closure systems. A self-closing, self-latching mechanism can be installed on sliding-glass and sliding screen doors, also for as little as $300.

Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.


Pool Precautions

* Use not one but many safety barriers, providing "layers of protection" so that if a child eludes one there are others in his or her way.

* Designate a person to watch the pool/spa area whenever children are present.

* Don't leave toys near or floating in the pool/spa when it's not in use. They attract small children.

* Look in the pool area first if a child is missing. When a child is immersed in water, every second counts.

* Know infant/child CPR, and make sure others who watch the child are also familiar with rescue procedures.

* Leave a cordless phone near the pool for quick access to 911 emergency service.

* Keep rescue equipment in the pool area, including a life-saving ring and shepherd's hook.

* Make sure all safety barriers are in good working order and are used properly at all times.

* Install safety barriers even if you don't have a small child; chances are you have grandchildren, other family members or friends with children who will visit your home. Nearly half of all children under 5 who drown do so in a home other than their own.

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