Your swimming pool should be a place of relaxation and enjoyment and not a cause of constant worry. No precaution should ever be spared to ensure that users and pets are safe from drowning in the pool.
Children are the most vulnerable. Their inability to discern danger puts them at great risk around the pool area. Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to reduce and even eliminate fatalities around swimming pools.
For safety purposes, it would be ideal to locate swimming pools away from the other living spaces. But that would take the fun out of them. Pools in private houses, hotels and restaurants often have to be built just next to the living spaces to enhance the outdoor living experience. This often presents a safety challenge to the landscape designer.
Landscaping around such pools should therefore be given careful thought. To begin with, a clear walkway of adequate width with a non-slip easily cleaned and durable surface should be provided right around the pool. For fancier poolside recreation, it may be necessary to engage a landscape professional to help you with the finer details.
A safety step (or ledge) should also be provided on all the walls of pools used by young children and non-swimmers. This safety step should be located not more than 90 metres below the top water level. If the pool will be used after dark, lighting becomes paramount. Task lights should be placed so that the edges of the pool, including pools markings are clearly visible without producing uncomfortable or disruptive glare.
There must be some kind of a barrier that covers the entire perimeter of the pool area with a lockable gate. The barrier should be at least 120 metres high, just about the height of a bank counter. But don’t just go for any barrier. A good barrier should also enhance the ambience of the poolside landscape.
Fortunately, there are now all kinds of barriers that adequately take care of both function and aesthetics. From bamboo barriers for a tropical look to aluminium and stainless steel types for a more contemporary look. It may be necessary to blend the barrier with appropriate plantings to soften it and harmonise it with the rest of the garden.
While pool covers are primarily designed to seal off the pool surface and protect it from contamination, they also offer some level of safety. They can prevent children and pets from falling into the water when it is not in use. But no amount of design intervention can replace the need for constant supervision of pool areas.
Even before you install a pool, teach the kids that they should never access the pool area without a responsible adult. Thereafter, put measures in place to ensure that whenever children are around the pool area, a supervising adult is at hand to watch their every move.
—The writer is a landscape architect.
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