During the summer swimming season, families who don’t have private pools count on public-pool operators to follow local, state, and federal regulations to help ensure their safety. But according to the National Safety Council, 600 children and adults drown every year in swimming pools, nearly half in community pools.

For safety’s sake, some things to be aware of when visiting a public pool or spa include:


When you arrive at the pool or spa, take a look around and observe whether or not appropriate equipment is present, such as:

  • Signs indicating that the custom swimming pools or spa has been inspected and is compliant with federal and local laws and regulations.
  • The pool and spa pumps appear to be running.
  • Life-saving equipment (life rings and reaching poles) is readily available for use.


When children are present in and around the pool, you should:

  • Stay close by.
  • Always be alert and watch the children.
  • Note whether water-safety rules are posted in a visible area.
  • Make sure there is sufficient staff available to monitor the pool, particularly if it is busy.
  • Have a charged cell phone available nearby.

Water Safety Skills

Many people who visit swimming pools don’t actually know how to swim, making knowledge of water safety skills even more important. Be certain that:

  • A lifeguard is present to watch swimmers and ensure that they are safe.
  • The staff is trained and certified in first aid and emergency response.
  • Someone present knows how to perform CPR on children and adults, and understands the basics of life-saving in a pool emergency.


Swimming pools are connected to a much larger surface through underground water pipes, gas lines, and electric and telephone wiring, and lightning strikes hitting the ground anywhere metal is present can induce shocks elsewhere.

When swimming in a pool, you should always keep an eye on the weather, and when thunder and lightning are first observed, measure your distance from the storm by observing the time that elapses from when the lightning is seen to when the thunder is heard. The lightning is roughly one mile away for every five seconds of elapsed time, and the pool should be evacuated when there are 30 seconds between a lightning strike and the associated thunder. Pool activities should be suspended until about 30 minutes after the last thunder is heard.

Electric Shock

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) 14 people died as a result of electrocution, or death by electrical shock, in swimming pools from 2003 to 2014. Wet skin and wet surfaces greatly increase the chance of electrocution when electricity is present around pools, hot tubs, and spas in the form of:

  • Underwater lights
  • Electric pumps, filters, and vacuums
  • Extension and power cords
  • Electrical outlets and switches
  • Electronic equipment, including radios, stereos, and televisions
  • Overhead power lines

If a swimmer feels a tingling sensation, muscle cramps, or feel as if someone is holding them in place, they may be experiencing electrical shock. If you experience these symptoms, get out of the water as soon as possible and immediately turn off all power.

Community pools are great places to cool off and have fun, but always remember to take responsibility for your own safety, as well as that of your family.

Image by archibald jude

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