Few summer traditions can compare to a day at the community pool. The warm sun, the cool water, the smells of chlorine and baking concrete. But the community pool can also be a dangerous place, one that warrants continuous supervision of children and constant vigilance against an accident. An average of 390 children under the age of 14 drown in pools or spas each year.
Community pools are particularly dangerous for young children, and the younger they are the more the danger grows. Drowning is the number one cause of accidental death among children aged one to four, and 76% of child drowning victims are under the age of five. Two-thirds are three or younger.
Signs of drowning
The dangers of community pools are exacerbated by some common misconceptions about what drowning looks like. In the movies, the victim is often splashing and waving their arms about over their head. While this might make for engaging television, the reality is that most drowning victims slip under without uttering so much as a single cry for help. Half of all child drownings occur within 25 feet of a parent or another adult. All it takes is a moment of inattention. 
The Role of Lifeguards
There are a number of actions parents should take to limit their child’s risk at the community pool. First, take note of the number, placement, and engagement level of the lifeguards. Most states have specific rules about how many lifeguards must be on duty, but the reality is that many lifeguards at community pools are high school students with a limited amount of training. Even if there are lifeguards on duty, it is important to recognize that the lifeguards might not be focused upon your child because they can be distracted by other swimmers, their coworkers, or other job duties. Lifeguards might not be observant if they are tired or not feeling well. Others are simply not paying attention. At the end of the day, you have to take action for your child’s safety to prevent them from swimming in an unsafe environment.
Before they swim
Protecting your children begins before they ever enter the water. Take a look at the area surrounding the pool. Is it fenced off to prevent easy or accidental access by young children? Do the pool pumps appear to be working? Is life-saving equipment such as floatation rings kept close at hand? Pools that skimp or fail in these highly visible safety areas may also be deficient in safety matters that are equally important but more difficult to spot.
The community pool is a great summer resource to alleviate the heat and boredom, and your kids will treasure their memories of those sun-baked days for the rest of their lives. Your vigilance can help keep them safe and reduce the number of senseless tragedies that blight so many communities every summer.
About the Author: Derrick Walker is an accomplished and experienced trial attorney in the Richmond, Virginia office of Allen & Allen. He has a solid track record in a wide array of personal injury matters including multi-million dollar awards in cases involving wrongful death, tractor trailer accidents, traumatic brain injury, and medical malpractice.