Prevent Pool Accidents


Water is dangerous!!! We must never forget this, and let our guard down around the wet stuff, for even a fraction of a second. For the protection of our readers who are parents and pool owners, I will reprint some tips that might prevent pool accidents happening to you.
Summer is now here; it is getting very hot, so we must try and keep cool. However, remember that drowning is the second largest killer of children in this country, only surpassed by automobile accidents. As a parent of four young children, this scares me, and my kids can swim very well.
During and after college, I worked as an L.A. City lifeguard and lifeguard instructor for eight years. I also wrote a lifeguard manual, and I’m still certified as a lifeguard today.
Do you remember, a few years ago, reading about the 7-year-old boy who drowned at a pool party here in Los Angeles? The most disturbing part of this story, besides the death of a small child, was that no one found the boy’s body on the bottom of the pool for two days, and that no one was willing to take responsibility for the boy’s death. This is an accident that should have never happened, and a situation that should have never lasted for two days.
Studying the case of the young boy at the pool party, I can see that a lot of deadly mistakes were made. The parents of the young boy who drowned made the first blunder. They should have made sure (before leaving the child at a pool party) that there was going to be a competent adult, or a professional lifeguard, on duty watching the pool, especially because this 7-year-old boy could not swim. Asking the host of the swim party this question was the responsibility of the parents, and it was never done.
The next error was that there was either no lifeguard watching the pool, or whoever was playing lifeguard (the housekeeper) was doing just that… playing lifeguard. Providing a real lifeguard and a safe pool was the responsibility of the homeowner giving the party, and this was not done. This was the most deadly mistake, and the pool owner made it.
To be a real lifeguard, you need an extensive amount of training, and at least a summer or more of actually working experience as a rookie lifeguard.
Another big slip-up made by the homeowner was that no one was checking the pool’s clarity or the amount of chlorine in the pool; this must be checked at least every two or three hours depending on the sun and number of people using the pool. If no one checks the chlorine, the pool can become cloudy and unsafe very quickly.
If you are planning a pool party, you should also make sure you add a little extra chlorine the night before. This will help keep the pool from becoming cloudy during your party. An untrained eye might not know how to check the clarity but a professional lifeguard would have perceived the problem immediately. Lifeguards are trained to check the clarity by looking to see if the drain in the deep end is visible. If the drain is not visible while standing on the deck, the pool is too cloudy to allow people to swim in it. If this happens, the pool must be closed immediately. It will take 24 to 48 hours, after you super chlorinate, for the pool to become clear again. That’s why it took two days to locate the young boy’s body at the bottom of the pool.
In addition, a lifeguard is trained to walk around the edge of the entire pool trying to observe the drain. He is also checking the surface and floor while compensating for any reflections on the water disturbing a clear view of the complete pool and its bottom. This is what no one seemed to understand in this accident, and the reason the boy’s body remained undiscovered for two days. This was the responsibility of the fire and police officers on the scene, and they obviously didn’t have proper training for this situation.
Hopefully, someone will reevaluate this tragedy and train some police and firemen with lifeguard skills.
If a professional lifeguard were unable to see the drain at the bottom of the deep end, especially, with a missing victim, he would immediately enter the pool and start combing the bottom with his hands and feet. This was also not done.
A good tip for pool owners is to have a one foot black circle painted on the bottom of the pool’s deep end. If you can no longer see the circle clearly, the pool is too cloudy, and should be closed immediately.
Another hazard at an outdoor pool is the glare caused by sun reflecting on the surface of the pool water. This glare can also make it impossible to clearly see the bottom of the pool’s deep end. An experienced lifeguard will know enough to move his position depending on where the sun hits the water.
Another common mistake made by amateur lifeguards is that they will watch the surface of the pool for someone drowning but neglect watching the pool’s floor. The entire pool should be scanned every 3 to 5 seconds—top and bottom. A professional lifeguard knows it only takes seconds for a child or non-swimmer to end up at the bottom of a pool.
A final warning: 90% or more of the people who drown never yell or call for help. They are too busy struggling to breath and trying to keep from going under to say anything.
It’s going to be a long, hot summer, so please talk to your children about water safety. Also, give, or get, swimming lessons, and, remember, no one is waterproof.
Also, if you have any questions on aquatics, swimming pools or life guarding, please call me at (818) 588-3047 or e-mail

Kevin McKenna is an award-winning filmmaker/writer and the executive director of IDEAS (Investigative Documentaries Educating American Society). If you have any comments, ideas or need more information on how you can help or contribute, call him at (818) 588-3047 or e-mail

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