CPSC Releases Study on Pool Alarm Reliability --Barriers, Supervision Still Key to Preventing 350 Child Drownings Each Year

May 26, 2000
Release Number: 00113

Memorial Day weekend is the time many families open their home pools for the summer. Pool owners, especially those with young children and grandchildren, should always keep in mind the deadly hazards a pool can pose. About 350 children under 5 years old drown in pools each year nationwide and 2,600 are treated in hospital emergency rooms for near-drowning incidents. Most of the cases involve residential pools.

To prevent this tragedy, many pool owners use pool alarms designed to sound a warning if a child falls into the water. Sales of pool alarms have doubled since 1994. A study released today by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) tested the performance of various pool alarm systems.

The CPSC study looked at three types of alarms: floating alarms that detect waves on the surface; underwater alarms that detect waves under the surface; and a wristband alarm, which is worn by a child, and alarms when exposed to water.

CPSC's tests showed that underwater alarms performed the most consistently (with one surface alarm - PoolSOS - performing almost as well). Underwater sensors alarm more consistently and are less likely to false alarm. When a test object, intended to simulate the weight of a small child, was pushed into a pool, the underwater sensors detected it most reliably. The underwater alarms also can be used in conjunction with pool covers, whereas the surface alarms cannot. The wristband device alarmed well but can be impractical because the caregiver must remember to put it on the child, and it alarms when exposed to any water source, such as tap water.

Pool Alarms that Performed Well in the CPSC Tests
 
Underwater AlarmsFloating/Surface Alarm
Poolguard - PBM Industries PoolSOS - Allweather Inc.
Sentinel LINK - Lambo Products Inc.  


"Pool alarms can be used as an extra safeguard, but should never be relied upon as the only line of defense in preventing a child from drowning in your pool," said CPSC Chairman Ann Brown. "The keys to preventing these tragedies are placing barriers around your pool, closely supervising your child and being prepared in case of an emergency."


CPSC Swimming Pool Safety Guidelines



Pools should have layers of protection to prevent drowning:

- Fences and walls should be at least 4 feet high and installed completely around the pool. Fence gates should be self-closing and self-latching. The latch should be out of a small child's reach.

- If your house forms one side of the barrier to the pool, then doors leading from the house to the pool should be protected with alarms that produce a sound when a door is unexpectedly opened.

- A power safety cover -- a motor-powered barrier that can be placed over the water area -- can be used when the pool is not in use.

- For above-ground pools, steps and ladders to the pool should be secured and locked, or removed when the pool is not in use.

- If a child is missing, always look in the pool first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability. Keep rescue equipment by the pool, and be sure a phone is poolside with emergency numbers posted. You or someone in your household should know CPR.

- Pool alarms can be used as an added precaution. Underwater pool alarms generally perform better and can be used in conjunction with pool covers. CPSC advises that consumers use remote alarm receivers so the alarm can be heard inside the house or in other places away from the pool area.

CPSC offers three free publications consumers can use to help prevent child drowning: "Safety Barrier Guidelines for Pools," "How to Plan for the Unexpected" and "Guidelines for Entrapment Hazards: Making Pools and Spas Safer." Some localities have incorporated the CPSC guidelines into their building codes and regulations.

Copies of these publications can be obtained here on CPSC's website, or by writing to "Pool Safety", CPSC, Washington, D.C., 20207.