Let’s face it: the best antidote for a sweltering summer day is a dive in the swimming pool. Metropolitan Phoenix boasts more than 400,000 swimming pools, proof that we love nothing more than a refreshing dip as the temperatures climb.
However, owning a backyard oasis brings tremendous responsibility along with the fun and games. Arizona is one of the top states for drowning tragedies year-round. In 2012, there were 36 child deaths in Arizona due to drowning, according to the Arizona Child Fatality Review Program. That was a 10 percent increase in child drowning deaths over 2011. As a safety advocate and full-service insurance agency, AAA advises pool owners or those thinking about pool ownership to heed the following:
• Keep it fenced. According to Arizona law, a swimming pool must be protected by an enclosure that surrounds the pool area if a child younger than 6 lives there. Other options, such as alarms on house doors and in-water pool alarms, might not be mandated, but should be strongly considered, as they add additional layers of protection. Install a locking gate so it’s not easy for youngsters to get in. However, don’t let a gate lull you into a false sense of security. There is no substitution for adult supervision.
• Ditch the slide. They may be fun, but slides and diving boards are considered a safety hazard.Insurers often frown upon slides and many won’t insure pools with diving boards because of their risks.
• Contact your town. Per Arizona law, a pool enclosure is required at a residence with a swimming pool where one or more children younger than age 6 reside. In addition to state law, each municipality has its own rules for pool owners. The city of Phoenix, for example, requires pools permitted after May 4, 1990, to have an inner yard barrier, such as a pool fence. The city also requires a barrier to be installed retroactively for single family pools if a child under age 6 moves into the home.
• Notify your insurer. Tell your insurance company that you have a pool to ensure you are properly insured in case of an incident. Most homeowner policies include a minimum of $100,000 worth of liability protection. Pool owners, however, may want to considerincreasing the amount to $300,000 or $500,000. You may want to talk to your agent about purchasing an umbrella liability policy to provide liability protection over and above what you have on your home.
• Always supervise. Never leave children unsupervised — even for a few seconds and even if they know how to swim. This goes for pets too, as dogs and cats can fall into the pool and drown; even if they know how to swim. Never leave toys or floats in the pool as they may prove to be a deadly temptation for kids or pets trying to reach them. Keep children away from pool filters, drains and other mechanical devices.
• Be prepared for emergencies. In the event of an accident, clearly post emergency numbers. Keep a first aid kit, ring buoys and reaching poles near the pool. Get certified in basic first-aid and CPR training.
Pool owners must be vigilant about water safety not only during the summer, but throughout the year. As a homeowner with a pool, you’re responsible all the time.
• Linda Gorman is the communications and public affairs director for AAA Arizona. For more information, visit AAA.com/insurance.