By Nora Heston Tarte
In any given year, the sun makes an appearance on 296 days in Phoenix, so it makes sense why the Phoenix-Mesa metropolitan area nabbed six of the top ten spots for cities with the largest percentage of swimming pools in the country, according to Realtor.com. That same statistic is why Arizona families should always make water safety a priority—especially when spring rolls around and pool parties become a weekend staple.
Bob Hubbard, owner of Hubbard Family Swim School with locations across the Valley, says getting kids in the water young is important. Not only does the water help those as young as two months old to develop motor skills, but also the sooner a tike gets into the water, the better they will understand risks and the importance of safety. A parent benefits from their kid’s early exposure to water, too, as they learn their child’s skill level and how to best accommodate them.
Before hosting a backyard bash, parents should take safety precautions when a pool is nearby. If there are designated swimming hours at the party, the pool should be safely closed off at all other times.
“It’s proven over and over, a breached barrier is the greatest risk,” Hubbard shares. “A real danger is that children can wander off during the other festivities.”
Homeowners should also make sure that partygoers know pool rules. For example, limit roughhousing that could scare a child or cause injury, don’t let swimmers dive into shallow water and always walk around the pool—no running. It can help to list these rules near the pool or go over them with guests before anyone jumps in.
Another pro tip? “I would put your address on the pool fence,” says Hubbard.
“Emergency personnel cannot tell where you are calling from if you use a cell phone.” This way, if there is an incident, whoever calls 9-1-1 will have the address handy to repeat. And make sure there is a cell phone outside with you in case an emergency phone call has to be made.
Don’t forget to keep guests’ needs in mind. “Stock up on swimming toys and swim diapers,” says Hubbard. “A good pool party-thrower is always prepared.”
It’s not enough to have a gaggle of parents in the general vicinity if no one is designated to keep an eye on the kids in the pool—especially kids who may not be strong swimmers. Instead, take turns. Make a lanyard with a whistle and a semi-official water watcher badge. This way, there is always a pair of adult eyes on the pool. Schedule short shifts, about 10 to 15 minutes at a time, and have a strict no drinking rule for the person in charge.
“Designation of a water watcher is honestly the best thing that you can do,” Hubbard says.
In lifeguarding, a single lifeguard may be in charge of 120 swimmers, but the rules at a pool party, especially where not everyone is a strong swimmer and the atmosphere is more recreational, should be closer to 1:10 or 1:15. One adult in charge of more than 15 kids in the pool on their own is likely too much to handle.
For infants and toddlers, in a parent’s arms is the safest place to be, according to Hubbard. “Floaties are never a substitute for proper supervision,” he says. Not only is swimming with parents a positive learning experience for the child who is new to the water, it’s safer. Inflatables meant to hold infants can flip or invert, and water wings aren’t always safe enough. Not to mention, Hubbard says they encourage poor swimming habits.
If the budget allows, Hubbard suggests hiring a lifeguard for the party. That way everyone can enjoy his or her time knowing a professional is there to keep watch.
In The Water
“An adult should be within one arms reach of a child,” Hubbard says. “Kids are never safe in the pool alone.”
That being said, when a parent is nearby, there are options for extra safety. Pool noodles can be fastened with a ring to create a boat-like device. To be extra cautious, parents can even use certified life jackets for kids who need them.
Before letting a child venture into the deep end of a pool by themself, make sure you know their skill level. Children may say they are strong swimmers even if they are not. If the parent isn’t nearby to confirm, ask the child to demonstrate before letting them wade into deeper waters. If there are several newbie swimmers at the party, organize games to play in the shallow end or even rope it off as a separate designated area.
“You could require that adults accompany their non-swimming kids to the party and to be ready to get in the water so their child can be safe and have fun,” Hubbard adds.
The water isn’t the only element you need to be concerned about during a pool party. In Arizona, chances are the sun is beating down on you, too! Stock up on sunscreen and continually apply it. Make sure the brand you buy is waterproof so it doesn’t rinse off in the pool!
Don’t forget to drink plenty of water, too. Becoming dehydrated or sun sick can lead to its own set of health issues.