Wading pools and other portable pools are very popular. However, despite their small size, they also pose a drowning risk to young children, particularly since they often lack the security features found on larger pools.
A recently published study reports on 209 backyard drownings and 35 near-drownings that occurred in portable pools from 2001 to 2009 in the United States. While these figures may seem low, accidents involving this type of pool claimed the life of one child every five days during the summer months. In addition, the study only includes the accidents reported to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (the equivalent of Health Canada’s Consumer Product Safety Bureau), which might be greatly underestimating the true number of drowning deaths.
This research reported on drownings that occurred in water depths ranging from five centimetres to approximately 1.2 metres. For example, one accident involved a parent who fell asleep in a wading pool while holding a child. Other accidents occurred during lapses in supervision when parents were momentarily distracted, or when children left their home undetected and made their way to the yards of neighbours having this type of pool, which is usually easily accessible because of a lack of fencing.
Portable pools have become an affordable alternative to in-ground or traditional above-ground pools. The problem is that they don’t usually have the security fences that local authorities require in order to prevent access to unsupervised pools. The study authors estimate that 47 of the 209 drownings in their research could have been prevented by a security fence.
Drownings occur quickly and silently, in part because small children don’t struggle when they fall into water. Regardless of the pool size, ensure uninterrupted supervision. And if a pool cannot be emptied at the end of the day, make sure that it cannot be accessed by children, for example by removing all ladders or nearby furniture that could be used to climb into the pool, and by installing a fence as per your municipal bylaws.