Pool Safety Guide for Homeowners

By HomeAdvisor

Updated June 7, 2019

Safety life buoy in blue swimming pool

There is a type of pool for everyone, every space and every purpose. Thanks to advances in construction and more available materials, traditional in-ground pools can take on about any look. Whether you opt to DIY with an above-ground kit or hire a pool company to install an inground style, safety is key.

Unfortunately, this hub of fun family activity can be deadly if left unchecked and unguarded. That’s why it’s important for every owner to educate himself or herself about water safety and maintain a safe pool environment. Furthermore, owners need to ensure family, friends, neighbors, and guests not only know, but follow, pool rules.

According to the American Red Cross, there are a few rules that apply to every pool owner.

On This Page:

  1. Pool Safety Checklist
  2. Supervision
  3. Pool Maintenance
  4. Water Safety
    1. Child Swimming Safety for Supervising Adults
    2. Adult Swimming Safety
    3. For Seniors
    4. For People with Disabilities
  5. CPR 101
    1. Before Giving CPR
    2. During CPR
  6. Swimming Strokes to Learn & Teach
    1. Front Crawl/Freestyle Stroke
    2. Breaststroke
    3. Butterfly Stroke
    4. Backstroke
    5. Sidestroke

Pool Safety Checklist

In some regions, homeowners may be legally required to enclose or cover their pool for the safety of their neighbors.

  1. Install a fence. Surround the pool with a safety fence that’s at least 4 feet tall. This safety fence should have self-closing and self-latching gates. The gates should open outward and have latches that are out of the reach of young children.
  2. Install door locks. Check out automatic door locks and alarms on the doors that lead to the pool and install them if you can.
  3. Install a swimming pool cover. Installing and using a swimming pool cover can help keep people out of the pool when a supervisor or lifeguard is not around. If you have a cover, make sure it is in good shape. If it’s damaged, hire a swimming pool cover repair service near you to get it fixed.
  4. Remove access stairs or ladders when everyone is out of the pool.
  5. Keep toys out of the water after swimming. Remove all of the toys from the water and put them away after swimming so they are not lures for children who may not know how to swim. Store them upside down to allow the water to more easily drain off.
  6. Add a pool alarm that alerts you whenever someone enters.


While smart home alarms can help keep an eye on activity in the pool, it is no substitute for adult supervision.

  • Never let anyone swim alone.
  • Actively supervise children at all times.
  • Non-swimmers should not enter the water without a responsible party, and should always be kept within arm’s reach.
  • When required, use a US Coast Guard-approved life jacket.

A responsible adult should supervise children in the bathtub, swimming pool, and anywhere else children might be in or near the water. Supervising adults should avoid distracting activities, as drowning can happen in a moment. Even if lifeguards are around, supervising adults should avoid distractions. Adults should also be close enough to reach young children at all times when they are in or near the water.

Even adults should always swim with a friend, and visit swimming areas that have on-duty lifeguards.

Special supervision may be required for those with seizure disorders. One-on-one supervision should be given when those struggling with seizures are in or near bodies of water. Individuals with seizure disorders are safer in the shower than in the bathtub, and they should wear life jackets when boating.

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Pool Maintenance

Clean and test the water regularly to ensure proper filtration, circulation, and chemical levels. Broken ladders, chipped concrete, non-functioning gates, missing drain covers, and other common problems should be repaired immediately. Required safety equipment should always be easy to access and in working order.

Water Safety

Anyone who lives in the home or visits frequently, like grandchildren or other extended family members, should be taught how to swim at an age-appropriate pace. Rules related to pool behavior and access should be taught, posted, and enforced.

When people are using the pool at your home, it’s imperative to set safety guidelines and ensure that everyone complies with them.

Everyone in the home should know how to respond in the event of a water emergency. Teach kids how to call 911. Consider taking and training everyone how to administer CPR. Knowing CPR enables you to save lives. If more people knew CPR, fewer drowning deaths would occur.

Check the Temperature. Make sure your recreational pool is between 77 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid swimming if the water exceeds 84 degrees to avoid swimming with lots of bacteria. Hot tubs should be set between 100 and 102 degrees, but not more than 104 degrees.

Keep water safety devices on hand. Here’s a list of what to have near your pool such as life jackets and life preservers. Foam or air-filled water toys are not life-saving devices, so do not use things such as inner tubes, water wings, or pool noodles for that purpose.

Take regular breaks. Swimmers should not let themselves get exhausted, as that will put their lives in danger. Take regular breaks to avoid getting overtired.

Stay out of contaminated water. Swimming or playing in polluted water can make you sick. If the water is polluted or there is a posted notification to stay out of it, steer clear. This goes for kiddos, too.

Tie back long hair and take off jewelry. Take off jewelry before getting in the pool, and tie long hair back so it can’t get stuck in a pool drain.

Install proper drain covers. The right drain safety cover can help prevent entangled hair, suits, and jewelry and thus can help prevent drowning. Have drain covers installed on all pool drains.

Of course, those recommendations are just the basics when it comes to pool safety. There are some circumstances that require even more discernment. Parents of young children, pet owners, seniors, and people with disabilities should take extra care and attention to ensure their household stays safe.

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Child Swimming Safety for Supervising Adults

Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children ages one to four, according to PoolSafely.gov. Every child needs to be close enough to an adult that they can be grabbed instantly if they run into trouble or show signs of distress.

Parents and caregivers should also pay special attention to drains. Children’s hair, small limbs, jewelry, and bathing suits can get stuck in drains and suction openings, trapping them under the surface of the water.

To reduce the risk of this happening to your child, you should check drains prior to entering. Don’t use a pool or hot tub with a broken, loose, or missing drain cover. For hot tubs, find the emergency shut-off switch before getting in the water.

According to numerous studies, at least ten people die every day from accidental drowning, two of whom are aged 14 or younger. Since drowning is the fifth most common cause of unintentional injury deaths in the United States, taking precautionary measures can help save many lives.

Research tells us that:

  • Learning to swim saves lives. Formal swimming lessons help prevent drowning, reduce the risk for kids even as young as ages 1 to 4.
  • Young adults report having greater swimming abilities than older adults.
  • Children with more swimming education report being better swimmers.
  • Of all racial groups, African-Americans are the most likely to report limited swimming abilities.
  • Across the spectrum of age, income, and education levels, men report greater swimming abilities than women.
  • Time matters. Seconds literally make the difference between life and death. The quicker you start CPR on a drowning victim, the more likely it is to save the person’s life. Knowing CPR makes it possible for you to respond quickly, with potentially life-saving results.

So, what’s the key takeaway? Children should get swimming lessons as soon as possible, but swimming lessons are not a substitute for supervision. Children who know how to swim must still be supervised at all times, and proper safeguards such as pool fencing should be used even when the kids might know how to swim.

Teach kids the five essential water safety skillsAll children should learn how to do the following:

  1. Tread water or float for at least one minute
  2. Swim at least 25 yards to find an exit from the water
  3. Jump into or step into water that is over their head and then surface
  4. Turn around in a circle in the water to locate and head toward an exit
  5. Leave the water even if a ladder is not present

Adult Swimming Safety

It’s important to remember that in addition to caring for children near a pool, you’re also responsible for your own safety.

Avoid alcohol before or while you are swimming, boating, water skiing, or otherwise in or near the water, do not drink alcohol. It can impair judgment and response times.

Check your breathing. Don’t try to hold your breath for too long. Don’t get in the water after hyperventilating. Both can lead to blacking out and drowning. Make sure others do not do these things, either.

Don’t panic. If you or someone else is in danger, try to keep calm. Panicking can make you forget the steps to follow to rescue a person in danger. Keep a cool head and act to save their life.

  • Drowning Prevention Tips: This collection of drowning prevention tips can help you make your pool safer for all swimmers.
  • Healthy and Safe Swimming: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide these guidelines for safe swimming and drowning prevention.
  • Wading Pool Safety for Parents: Many children drown each year in wading pools, and these safety guidelines can help prevent those deaths.

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For Pet Owners

Cats are not the only pets that hate water. Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs are natural-born swimmers, either. No matter the breed or species, you must take special care to ensure your four-legged friends’ safety in and around your pool.

Not surprisingly, pets are like children. You should teach your pet to swim. Use an approved life vest, and build a fence around the pool’s perimeter.

For pets who can and do love to swim, there are some pretty handy safety gadgets that can make it easier for them. Specially-designed ramps not only make it easier for your pet to enter the pool, but they also provide an exit for pets who fall in accidentally. A ramp can also help prevent small, wild animals like squirrels, raccoons, or opossums from drowning in the water.

For Seniors

Pools can be both fun and therapeutic for senior citizens and the elderly, offering a cool, low-impact way to exercise joints and maintain muscle tone. However, as you get older, your abilities change. Like with other areas of your life, you must begin paying attention to accessibility.

Equip your pool with securely-attached rails to assist with entering and exiting, or install a pool lift. You should also be sure to keep the deck clean and free of debris that could cause you to trip and fall.

If it’s been a while since you used it, or you are just starting to need assistance, many pool companies will perform a safety and accessibility check for you. Finally, like anyone else, you should never swim alone.

For People with Disabilities

According to one expert at the University of Utah, part of the challenge with swimming with developmentally-disabled children and adults is that they don’t always understand the risks associated with not following pool safety rules. From inappropriate horseplay to removing their flotation devices due to sensory issues, it’s important to watch these individuals more closely to ensure they are not putting themselves or others in danger.

When it comes to physical disabilities, all public pools must adhere to guidelines set by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Examples of the requirements include swimming pool lifts, sloped entries, transfer walls with grab bars, and accessible stairs. For homeowners with disabilities or disabled family members, including as many of these same features as possible can make your pool safer and easier to use.

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CPR 101

One of the most important things you can do to keep people safe in the water is to learn how to perform CPR following the Red Cross recommended techniques.

Prior to administering CPR:

  1. Make sure the area is safe for you to perform CPR. Look out for any dangers to be avoided.
  2. Make sure the person really needs CPR by tapping them on the shoulder and asking if they are OK.
  3. Either call 911 yourself or choose someone nearby to do so. If there’s an AED on the premises, choose someone to go get it.
  4. Move the victim onto their back and open the airway by tilting their head back slightly and lifting their chin.
  5. Check for breathing to see if CPR is necessary. If no sign of regular breathing appears within ten seconds, begin to administer CPR.

During CPR:

  1. Put your hands on top of one another and then on the middle of the chest of the victim. Push hard and fast (100 compressions per minute), using your body weight to help do so. Press to make compressions that are at least two inches deep. Make 30 compressions.
  2. While the victim’s head is tilted backward, pinch the person’s nose closed and place your mouth over the mouth of the victim, making an airtight seal. Blow into the victim’s mouth to cause two chest rises. Then, continue the compressions.
  3. If the chest does not rise after the first breath, try to tilt the head again. If no chest rise occurs on the second attempt, then look for an object blocking the airway and remove it if possible. If you find nothing, do 30 compressions and check again.
  4. Alternate two rescue breaths and 30 compressions until the person starts breathing, you get exhausted, an AED is located, or EMTs arrive.

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Swimming Strokes Explained

Safe swimming requires the proper swimming technique. These are the most common swimming strokes, including body positions, used in swimming.

Front Crawl/Freestyle Stroke

This may be the most familiar stroke to most people. Swimmers do the front crawl by lying in the water and pulling themselves forward with their arms alternating. While one arm is under the water pulling through and up, the other arm is over the head pulling through the air and then plunging into the water as the underwater arm surfaces. Swimmers breathe by turning their head to the side and raising it from the water.

This is the fastest, most efficient stroke, which is why it is commonly used in swimming races and competitions.


The breaststroke is incredibly popular. It alternates between a glide phase and a recovery phase. The glide phase begins with you lying in the water with your arms extended forward and your palms facing down. Your legs are stretched out straight behind you with your feet pointed. Turning the palms outward, you then move your arms sideways, keeping them straight and stopping when your arms are even with the shoulders. Then, you turn your arms so that your forearms and palms face backwards, allowing you to then bend your elbows and move your arms downward. Once your arms are vertical, you then move them diagonally backward against the water inward and upward until your palms are facing each other. Then, you stretch your arms out during this recovery phase until they are in the starting glide phase position again.

The breaststroke is the slowest of all of the competitive swimming strokes and is often one of the first strokes taught.

Butterfly Stroke

The butterfly stroke is among the most difficult swimming strokes to learn. During this stroke, the chest and hips alternate in movement up and down in the water. Arms move in an hourglass direction under the water and then exit the water at the hips, moving in a circle forward until they are once more extended and the hourglass movement can begin again. While this is happening, the legs stay together and move up and down simultaneously.

The butterfly stroke is difficult to learn and is exhausting because of the unusual movements, so it ranks among the least-used of the swimming strokes. It is also used in competitive swimming.


Unlike the other prone swimming strokes, the backstroke is swum while lying on top of the water on your back. While your head remains facing up, arms alternate with one above the water and one pulling under the water. Swimmers pull the arm underwater from a forward extended position and up toward the hip while the arm remains outside the shoulder. The arm then emerges for the recovery phase above the water, moving in a half circle backward until it is plunged in the water again.

The backstroke is used in both competitive and recreational swimming.


The other swimming strokes are done lying either on your front or your back in the water, but the sidestroke is performed while lying on your side. The head remains above the water and turned to the side. While the legs do a scissor kick, the lower arm travels underwater from being extended to the chest. The upper arm bends and then moves toward the chest until both hands meet. Unlike the other four strokes, the sidestroke is exclusively recreational, as it is not used in swimming competitions.

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No matter what style, size, or shape of pool you end up with, you should always consult a few local pool installers to ensure it is well-built and properly-maintained so that you and your family have a safe place to enjoy the hot months.

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