April 6, 2014 (San Diego)--The rains have gone and temperatures are expected to start rising again. And that means swimming pool season can’t be far off!
Every year, San Diego County’s Department of Environmental Health (DEH) inspects about 4,000 public swimming pools and spas to make sure they’re clean and safe. Now, they only inspect public pools — not private residential pools — so if you own a pool, they won’t be making any house calls!
But their experts can still share a few handy tips to help you keep your pool safe and looking great! Here’s a Top 10.
1) Watch the Kids! Rule number one. Swimming pools are designed to be fun. But every year children drown or get seriously hurt in residential swimming pools — almost always because adults stop paying attention. Teach kids how to swim (and learn yourself if you don’t know how). If your house opens directly into a pool, install a door-alarm to alert you when a child opens it. If you don’t already have a fence between your house and pool, consider putting one up. Kids wander around a lot and can find their way into the pool even if they’re out of sight for only a minute. When children are in the pool, always watch them. And remember, water wings, Styrofoam “noodles” and other toys are NOT safety devices and children wearing them should NOT be left unattended.
2) Check the Fences: If you do have a fence and self-closing gate around your pool, check to make sure the spaces between each of its pickets and between the bottom rail and the ground are no more than 4 inches apart and the fence is at least 5 feet tall so children and animals can’t squeeze through or climb over to get into an unattended pool.
3) Make Sure Your Pool Drain Covers Are Visible And Intact: Let’s face it, if you can’t get a clear look at your pool’s drain covers — your pool water needs cleaning! If you can see them, make sure they’re not broken or chipped and remind children NOT to play near them so they can’t get sucked in and trapped.
4) Have Two Pieces of Safety Equipment: Every pool should have two essential pieces of safety equipment: a life ring (life preserver) with a diameter of at least 17 inches that can be thrown to help struggling swimmers stay afloat, and a safety hook, to pull people to safety. You should also consider keeping a phone at the pool while swimming so if you need to make an emergency call, you can do it quickly.
5) Repair Any Damage to Decking, Equipment and Pool Area: Make sure pool ladders and pool railings are secure so people aren’t hurt when they rely on them to get in and out of the pool. Repair damage to decking to prevent people from tripping.
6) Don’t Swim If You’re Sick: Chlorinating your pool only does so much. You need to keep germs out of the pool. Practice good hygiene. Don’t swim when you have diarrhea. If there is an accident in your pool, be sure to clear the pool and follow guidelines for proper cleaning of the water.
7) Test Your Pool Water Routinely: Testing the chemical balance of the water in your pool is one of the most important things you can do to make sure it’s up to par. That’s because that balance — which keeps your water disinfected, clean and safe — can be easily thrown out of whack by heavy use, hot weather, rain and lots of other things. To keep your pool safe, test the chorine and pH levels at least twice a week and daily if you can.
8) Skim, Brush and Vacuum Your Pool Regularly: There’s a lot of stuff out there that can get into your pool and make it look cloudy or green. Swimmers can carry in sunblock, oils and other items. There’s dust, sediment and leaves blowing in the air that can all make it a lot harder for your filtration system to keep things clean. So use a hand skimmer to clean your pool’s surface, brush the walls and vacuum its floor often. Don’t forget to remove any leaves and debris in the skimmer baskets.
9) Keep Your Deck Clean: It only stands to reason — the less mess there is on the deck surrounding your pool, the less stuff that can be blown or carried into it. A good sweeping will go a long way to keeping your pool looking pristine.
10) Keep your Pool Filter Clean: If you have a cartridge-based filter, make sure to check, clean or replace your filters when they’re dirty. If you’re using a sand filter, make sure to backwash and clean your filter screens when they need it.
For more information about keeping your pool safe, check out DEH’s Swimming Pool Inspection Walkthrough video.