Safe Pools Safe Water

  1. Supervision is always your primary layer of protection, but many drowning incidents occur when adult supervision failed and there were no other backup layers in use.

  2. Layers of protection must be put in place to come as close to a fail-safe system of preventing drowning incidents as possible.

  3. Fortress! Your pool should be a fortress. To protect children, it should take on the order of six keys and two passwords and maybe an eyeball scan to access your pool. You safeguard prescription drugs, liquor, fire arms, and poison. You would never dream of allowing your child to get to any of those things, no matter the inconvenience to you. Please prevent unsupervised access to a pool.

Safer Backyard Pools

There are many layers of protection that can be put in place to protect your family.

  • Access doors to the pool area with high locks and self-latching mechanisms (In addition to regular doors, be sure to secure dog doors or any other access openings that lead to the pool area)

  • Alarms on access doors and openings

  • A pool safety barrier such as a fence or wall separating the pool from your home and all access doors and entrances

  • Pool alarms

  • Providing swimming lessons for a child when - or even before - he is capable of crawling to the pool

  • Keeping a telephone at poolside

  • Having rescue equipment readily available poolside

  • Never leaving objects in the pool that could attract your child

  • Removing any platforms such as tables and chairs near a pool fence that may be used to enter the pool

  • Not allowing the pool area to be used as a play area (Isolate the pool area to be used for swimming only.)

  • Learning CPR - Be prepared to act should there be an accident. Click for American Red Cross Training & American Heart Association Training

  • Creating an Emergency Action Plan for your pool

  • Setting down definite pool rules regulating its use and more importantly, when it is not in use

Every layer of protection possible must be in force at all times or your system is compromised.

If your pool isn't fenced. Don't wait another minute. Get to work right now making your pool safer.

Write down these keys to drowning prevention. You must know these to get a certificate.

Teach the Kids

A backyard pool can be a great source of fun;
but a pool can be dangerous - just like a gun.

It's scary to think that this toy in the yard
can be such a danger, but you see, there's no guard.

Don't jump in the water without adults near.
Don't play near the water alone, just stay clear.

Swim only with supervision and a buddy or two.
Practice safe swimming habits, and lock that gate when you're through.

Real Life

May 22, 2019: Girls likely peeled back fence before nearly drowning

April 24, 2018: Robstown police investigate toddler's drowning in above-ground pool

April 7, 2018 2-year-old child rescued after nearly drowning in Rancho Santa Margarita swimming pool

From the article: Drownings are the leading cause of death among California toddlers.

A law that went into effect in January aimed at reducing drownings requires an additional safety feature for newly constructed or remodeled pools and spas. It strengthens a 20-year-old regulation requiring they have at least one safety device, such as a fence, cover or alarm.

Under the new law, new pools and spas must have at least two safety mechanisms.

Choose safe pool toys and use them properly

Only US Coast Guard approved flotation devices should be considered safety items. All inflatables and other flotation items are toys and should be used only by skilled swimmers. Test swimmers before allowing use of flotation devices. All swimmers using rafts, rings, noodles, or water wings should be able to jump into the water, recover to a relaxed back float, and then swim to the side of the pool unassisted. Swimmers should also be able to pass a Dump Test by demonstrating that they can recover to a relaxed back float after having fallen off of an overturned raft or ring. 

Do not use water wings, swimmies, flotation swimming suits, rings, etc. even with adult supervision. These devices teach a heads-up posture in the water, arms out to the sides with the back arched and the knees bent in a bicycling-style kicking pattern. This posture and action are contrary to that needed for swimming.  I have over forty years of experience teaching swimming. I can say with certainty that the use of flotation devices dramatically lengthens the time it takes a child to learn to swim.


May 20, 2019: 3-year-old flown to Cincinnati hospital after nearly drowning in family’s pool


Model Aquatics Health Code

Unlike legislation, the MAHC is voluntarily adopted, wholly or in part, and driven by the expertise of pool operators.  It is free, accessible to all, and backed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  The MAHC is updated every two years by the Council for the Model Aquatic Health Code.

The CDC, through an initial grant from the National Swimming Pool Foundation, is working with public health and industry representatives across the United States to prevent drowning, injuries, and the spread of recreational water illnesses at public swimming pools and spas by building and maintaining the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC). The MAHC serves as a model and guide for local and state agencies needing to update or implement swimming pool and spa code, rules, regulations, guidance, law, or standards governing the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of swimming pools, spas, hot tubs, and other treated or disinfected aquatic facilities. The CDC hosts the MAHC on its Healthy Swimming website. To review MAHC modules, click here.  


Safer Water

Keeping water safe for swimming includes both filtration to keep foreign bodies out of the water and disinfection to kill germs in the water.

There are many different methods available to disinfect swimming pool water.  Technological innovations in the industry are sure to bring even more in the future.  Because chlorine is used at our pool and at most of our local pools, I will discuss chlorine here.

Protecting swimmers and their families is the reason that pool staff at public facilities regularly check both chlorine and pH levels.  Chlorine and pH are the disinfectant team that are your first defense against germs that can make swimmers sick.  (There are other types of disinfectants other than chlorine.  Chlorine is used here and at most local pools.)

Chlorine kills germs in pools, but it takes time to work.  It is important to make sure chlorine levels are always at the levels recommended by the health Nebraska a minimum or 2.0 ppm is required.

Chlorine needs to be tested regularly because all sorts of things can reduce chlorine levels in pool water - sunlight, dirt, debris, and material from swimmer's bodies.

The time it takes for chlorine to work is also affected by the pH level of the water.  Germ killing power of chlorine varies with the pH level.  As the pH goes up, the ability of chlorine to kill germs goes down.  Also, a swimmer's body has a pH between 7.2 and 7.8, so if the pool water isn't kept in this range swimmers will start to feel irritation of their eyes and skin.

The best way to kill germs is by routinely measuring and adjusting both chlorine and pH levels.  Since a few germs can survive for long periods in even the best maintained pools, it is also important that swimmers become aware of healthy swimming behaviors:  don't swim when ill with diarrhea, don't swallow pool water, take frequent bathroom breaks, and practice good hygiene.

Backyard pool owners need to constantly check the chlorine and pH levels in their pools. 

When using any pool it is important to look at the water carefully before use.   You should be able to clearly see any painted stripes and the bottom drain in the pool.  Pool operators of outdoor pools in our area with high usage sometimes close only the deep end of the pool when it becomes impossible to see the bottom.  Do not swim or allow your child to swim in any part of the pool under these conditions.

A well-maintained pool has little odor.  A strong chemical smell indicates a maintenance problem.

Ask questions of the pool owner or pool staff.  Are chlorine and pH levels checked at least twice per day.  Here in Nebraska, chemical readings are required to be posted.

Disinfection is one of many issues addressed in the Model Aquatic Health Code. 

The MAHC states: "Due to the risk of outbreaks of Recreational Water Illnesses (RWI’s) associated with sanitizer-resistant pathogens such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia it is strongly recommended that all aquatic facilities include Secondary Disinfection Systems (SDSs) to minimize the risk to the public associated with these outbreaks.”

The MAHC goes on to state, “However, there are specific types of facilities that pose a greater risk to bathers, and therefore, Secondary Disinfection Systems are required for: therapy pools, wading pools, swim school pools, and aquatic play facilities/features.”

So now, you know to start asking facilities about their Secondary Disinfection Systems too. 

Disinfection systems other than chlorine include bromine, UV, and Ozone systems.  Find out which your pool uses. 


Virginia Graeme Baker Act

The VGB Pool and Spa Safety Act was enacted in December 2007 to ensure public safety in pools and spas through federal regulations that require the use of equipment that protects against entrapment and evisceration.  Make sure the pools your family uses have been retrofitted or updated to comply with the VGB Act.  You can find out more about the VGB Act at the website for the Consumer Product Safety Commission at or


April 25, 2018: Video shows boy's rescue at SC resort pool after he gets pulled into suction line



practice healthy swimming behaviors

YOU can help keep the water safe for everyone. 

  • Refrain from swimming when you have diarrhea. This is best way to keep everyone safe from illness.

  • Avoid swallowing pool water or even getting it in your mouth.

  • Shower before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.

  • Take children on bathroom breaks or check diapers often.

  • Change diapers in a bathroom and not at poolside and thoroughly clean the diaper changing area.

  • Notify pool staff if your child has an accident or vomits in the pool.

  • Don't give pool staff a hard time when they have to close due to an "accident."  Their priority is patron safety, and they shouldn't be scolded for it.

This is hilarious!

Video Credit


Always shower before swimming. Start out the day clean.
Don't drink the pool water. Make potty breaks routine.

Swimming with diarrhea might make your friends sick.
Stay home when you're ill. Be safe. Get well quick!


Take advantage of the products available to safeguard your pool, but remember, all the technology in the world can't bring back the lifeless body of a child who drown unnoticed. 

1. List three layers of protection you can put in place to protect your family in backyard swimming pools.

2. Test yourself on the CDC recommendations for healthy swimming behaviors.

Refrain from swimming when you have _________________ .

Avoid swallowing pool water or even getting it in your mouth.

___________________ before swimming and  after using the toilet or changing diapers.

Take children on bathroom breaks or check diapers often.

Change diapers in a __________________, not at poolside.

3. The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act was enacted in December 2007.  It contains federal regulations that require the use of equipment that protects against _____________  and evisceration.  

Review the material on this page if you cannot answer these questions.  When you feel comfortable that you understand the information presented on this page, go ahead and click below to continue to the next page.

Influenza:  Influenza viruses infect the human upper respiratory tract. There has never been a documented case of influenza virus infection associated with water exposure. Recreational water that has been treated at CDC recommended disinfectant levels does not likely pose a risk for transmission of influenza viruses.  

Can influenza viruses be spread at recreational water venues outside of the water? Yes, recreational water venues are no different than any other group setting. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing of people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

Chlorine and Asthma:  You may have seen news reports about a small study in Europe that showed a correlation between swimming in chlorinated pools – both indoor and outdoor pools – and the development of asthma. This subject has been discussed and studied many times during the years that I’ve been involved in swimming.  As of this posting, both the American Lung Association and Asthma UK continue to recommend swimming as a healthy and safe activity.

Dr. Elaine Vickers of Asthma UK said in response to this latest study, “Asthma develops as a result of a complex mix of genetic and environmental factors, so more research is needed before we can make a conclusive link with the use of chemicals in swimming pools. Swimming is an excellent form of exercise for children with asthma as it can help improve lung capacity and the warm humid air of indoor pools is less likely to trigger asthma symptoms.”  Source:

And that's not all!  If you really want to worry about something, consider the following: Julian Andelman of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, the National Academy of Sciences, has shown that chemicals present in municipal drinking water supplies are especially toxic to people when they are exposed to them through inhalation as air pollutants while bathing or showering, especially in the confines of shower stalls and bathrooms.  His data indicates that hot showers can liberate 50 to 80 percent of the dissolved chemicals into the air. (The emissions from hot baths are half as high.)  Source:

Yikes!   For now, I’m going to keep swimming and keep showering – especially showering before swimming!

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has many informative web pages, handouts, and videos. 

You can get much more information from the CDC by clicking