Portable pools have been capable of turning any ordinary backyard into a summertime paradise for generations. But a new safety study provides a somber reminder that water is water — whether it’s six inches in an inflatable pool or six feet in an in-ground model — so parents, caregivers, and kids need to take heed: “Every five days a child drowns in a portable pool during the summer in the U.S.”
The report, prepared by the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, looked at over 200 accidental drowning deaths of children under the age of 12, linked to different kinds of portable pools, from 2001 to 2009. A press release from the Center quotes the senior author of the study, Dr. Gary A. Smith, on what may be the key disconnect when it comes to understanding the safety risks inherent in even the smallest portable pools: “Because portable pools are generally small, inexpensive and easy to use, parents often do not think about the potential dangers these pools present.” So precautions that have become standard protocol when it comes to larger in-ground pools — like the use of safety fences and gates surrounding the pool — may not even be considered for smaller, portable pools.
Portable pools run the gamut from $100 inflatable models (really more like small ponds) in which the water level doesn’t get more than a few inches deep, to larger and more sturdy pools that can hold thousands of gallons of water. What all portable pools seem to have in common, according to the study, is that under the right (or wrong) circumstances, they can pose the same risk of drowning and submersion injuries as larger in-ground and stationary pools. You can read a free online version of the study, Submersion Events in Portable Above-Ground Pools in the U.S., 2001-2009, from Pediatrics, the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.