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Renovation & Design

Pools are worth it -- safety is worth more

Everyone should take the time to consider these simple tips

Willy Williamson / Winnipeg Free Press

Having a pool is a huge perk during the hot summer months, but make sure you have safety in mind.

Without question, our favourite summer activity is having friends and family gather around our backyard pool for a day of fun in the sun.

Watching the kids swim and play in the water makes all the work associated with pool ownership totally worth it.

Truth is, my wife, Melanie, is in charge of the pool and does a great job keeping the water crystal clear — there’s a good chance the water would be green if it was one of my jobs.

It was my idea to put flowers in the Tonka trucks, though.

Throughout the 1990s, we had a small cabin at Grand Beach, but when we moved to our rural home near Oakbank in 2001, we sold the cabin and began transforming our backyard into our very own tropical paradise.

A few years back, I bought a tiki bar that had been part of the set in a local play.

As usual, Melanie thought I was bonkers, but right around then we were the high-bidders at a charity auction on a handyman for a day.

The carpenter whose services we won did a terrific job transforming the set into our very own tiki bar, complete with a bamboo front and a thatch roof.

Melanie spends countless hours every summer planting flowers and hanging solar lights and making everything look absolutely perfect.

Nowadays, the kids in our family who first enjoyed our pool have little ones of their own, and our 27-year-old daughter Kate, who is a teacher, spends a fair bit of time as our very own lifeguard, supervising the pool and also entertaining many of her fellow teacher friends — those lucky devils who get summers off.

When we initially bought a home with a pool, more than a few of our friends and family warned us how much work it would be, and it can be a challenge, but the great memories we’ve made around the pool have made it totally worthwhile.

Our longtime friend Lorne Edwards — who is the media co-ordinator for Lifesaving Society Manitoba, a provider of programs, products and services designed to prevent drowning — recently contacted me and shared some great pool safety tips.

Founded in 1911, Lifesaving Society Manitoba has been saving lives and educating Manitobans about water safety for more than 100 years.

They also train all of Manitoba’s national lifeguards.

The mere thought of a tragedy at our family pool makes me shudder and, truth is, there are a few of these terrific tips we haven’t been following to the letter — so this weekend, I plan to remedy that and make sure our pool is safe.

If you have a pool, please take a few moments to brush up on your pool safety, and also please share these great tips with friends and family who have a pool in their backyard:

● Have a four-sided pool fence that does not attach to the house or any other building.

● The pool fence should have a self-closing and self-latching/locking gate designed so that children cannot access it from the outside (i.e.: an adult needs to reach over the fence to release the latch).

● The pool fence should be a minimum of 1½ metres in height, with gates of at least 1.4 metres in height.

● Ensure that you have safety equipment (reaching tool, throw rope or ring buoy) on hand and available at the pool whenever it is in use.

● The fence should be made of a material or combination of materials that cannot easily be climbed.

● When not in use, the pool and surrounding area should be cleared of all toys or other materials — any toys or items left behind are an automatic magnet for young children.

● If a pool cover is used, it should always be placed all the way onto the pool — never left partially off — and being able to lock it in place is recommended.

● Pool alarms for gates or motion detectors that float in the pool are one level of protection, but should not be depended on to keep a child out of the water.

● When the pool is in use, there always needs to be an adult supervising the swimmers. This is their sole responsibility, and cannot be combined with using a phone, cooking, etc.

● Adult supervisors/parent lifeguards for young children (six and under) should always be within arm’s reach of their child to help ensure safety.

● Smaller pools (paddling pool, Mr. Turtle pool) should be emptied after every use and stored upside down so they do not collect water.

● For above-ground pools (rigid or inflatable), when not in use, the pool cover should be securely fastened and all ladders or other entry devices moved far away from the pool and secured so children cannot gain access. Just like an in-ground pool, there should be a four-sided pool fence around these items.

● Chemicals for use in any type of pool must be kept secured away from the pool itself. Access to the chemicals should be restricted to an operator who is using the appropriate safety equipment.

Have a great — and safe — weekend!

willy@freepress.mb.ca

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