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Summer Safety Part 3-Officials Implore Newtown Residents To Play It Safe When They Are Swimming In The Pool Or The Pond



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Summer Safety Part 3—

Officials Implore Newtown Residents To Play It Safe

When They Are Swimming In The Pool Or The Pond

By John Voket

Whether taking a dip in one of Newtown’s natural ponds, streams or lakes, one’s own residential pool, or dragging out a seldom used kiddy pool, officials implore users and those supervising swimming activities to play it safe. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 250 children under the age of 5 drown each year in residential swimming pools and spas.

And the commission estimates that another 3,000 children younger than 5 are treated in hospital emergency rooms following pool accidents each year. But to millions of children and adults, swimming is practically a mandatory summer activity.

It can be a refreshing experience on a sweltering summer day, as well as a great low-impact exercise that is less likely to cause injury than many other activities, making it ideal for seniors, pregnant women, and those recovering from injury.

Newtown Building Inspector John Poeltl reminds Newtowners that even the smallest and shallowest of pools can be dangerous, and pose a threat of drowning if those using it are not properly supervised. His office follows state building codes, which require anyone with a pool 24 inches deep or deeper to pull a building permit, and to maintain secure fencing around it.

“It doesn’t matter how much water you put in it. If your inflatable or kiddy pool is 24 inches, you have to have a permit and a fence or barrier,” the building official stated.

He advises anyone of the thousands of in-ground or above ground pool owners in Newtown to use and maintain a pool alarm, which will sound an alert if someone or something enters the water.

“Even if people are around, when the pool is not in use, set the alarm. Better to be safe than sorry,” Mr Poeltl said. “Pool alarm batteries should also be checked and changed regularly — so I tell people to do that whenever they are changing batteries in their home smoke alarms, or at least once a year.”

And what if you already have a secure gate and fencing surrounding a pool?

“I have found that any gate can settle over time,” he said. “Pool owners must be attentive to every gate that can provide access to a pool. It must self-close, and it should be configured to swing away from the pool so someone cannot easily push it open.”

“And if any part of the barrier is replaced or altered in any way, notify our office so we can come and inspect it,” Mr Poeltl added.

Insurance Liability

Newtown’s building inspector said many local pools likely predate existing building codes, so owners of older pools should determine whether they are now in violation of recent code changes regarding single drains, which were outlawed in 2004.

The Professional Insurance Agents of Connecticut Inc recently issued a reminder that pool owners can be sued in the event of an accident. Timothy Russell, CPCU, PIACT president, advises homeowners to check to be sure the limits of a homeowners policy are adequate.

“If you are involved in a lawsuit and the court awards a settlement higher than your limits, you will be held responsible for the balance,” Mr Russell said. “To protect against catastrophic losses, the purchase of an umbrella or excess liability policy should be considered.”

PIACT offers the following safety suggestions for pool owners:

*Never leave a child unsupervised near a pool. If you have babysitters, be sure they know about potential hazards to young children in and around swimming pools and the need for constant supervision.

*Install self-closing and self-latching gates. Be sure to position latches out of reach of young children.

*Never use flotation devices as a substitute for supervision.

*Never use a pool with its pool cover partially in place. It would be very easy for a child to get trapped under it. Remove it completely.

*Learn CPR

On the other hand, anyone who lives on, or has a natural water body on their property should be extra careful because these natural fixtures are not subject to the same regulations as pools.

Simple Rules

If residents are enjoying either Newtown’s public pool at Treadwell Park or the beach at Eichler’s cove, Parks & Recreation Director Amy Mangold asks that a few simple rules be observed.

“Children under age 13 must be accompanied and supervised by someone age 18 or older at all times,” Ms Mangold said. “That would include while in the water, even though we have lifeguards on duty during open hours.”

Ms Mangold also warned that swimming or wading is prohibited in the pool or at Eichler’s Cove beach when lifeguards are not on duty.

“And we ask that people do not socialize with the lifeguards who are on the stands. Anyone with questions or concerns should address the lifeguard who is off the stand,” she added. “We always have two or more on duty at all times, and we often have three or more.”

Newtown parks department lifeguards are the authority on site when they are on duty, Ms Mangold said of the 50 or more lifeguards who are employed at the seasonal locations. She also said that Eichler’s Cove has some unique features that require swimmers to always be in designated areas.

“Because this isi a controlled water body with a dam, the water level can change rapidly, and the beach area may be subject to currents, so if you have a question about that, just ask the lifeguard,” Ms Mangold advised.

Both the pool and the cove have audible lightning protection systems that will signal if lightning is within ten miles. If the alarm sounds, the water will be cleared until the lightning hazard dissipates. No alcohol is allowed at local swimming facilities, and horseplay or use of inflatables, snorkels, beach toys, water wings, and flippers is prohibited in the town pool.

Diving is only allowed from permitted areas of the pool, and any floatation devices in use must be US Coastguard approved, Ms Mangold said.

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