I.I.I. Warns Pools Lead Homeowners to Serious Liability Risks

August 8, 2005

With temperatures soaring in many parts of the country, above-ground pools are an appealing option to beat the summer heat. Inflating a pool for use in the back yard may seem simple enough, but there are insurance and safety implications to consider, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

The National Spa and Pool Institute reports that above-ground pools are rising in popularity with more than 3.7 million households purchasing a pool-an increase of over 11 percent since 2002.

According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 3,200 people drown each year. Among children, ages one to four, most drowned in residential swimming pools. Most of these young children had been out of sight for less than five minutes and were in the care of one or both parents at the time.

The I.I.I. lists a few tips for homeowners thinking of buying a pool that insurance agents should know about.

Contact the town or municipality. Each town will have its own definition of a “pool,” often based on its size and water depth. If the pool meets the definition, then the homeowner must comply with local safety standards and building codes. This may include installing a fence of a certain size, locks, decks and pool safety equipment.

Call the insurance agent or company representative. Notify the insurer the homeowner has a pool, since it will increase liability risk. Pools are considered an “attractive nuisance” and it may be advisable to purchase additional liability insurance.

Advise the insured to purchase an umbrella liability policy. And if the pool, itself, is expensive or if the insured decides to install an in-ground structure, they should also have enough insurance protection to replace it in the event it is destroyed by a storm or other disaster.

Advise the insured to learn about pool safety. When using the pool, make sure it is properly supervised by someone who knows how to swim. If the insured has children, advise them to take their children to swimming lessons as early as possible. And, remind them to never leave toys or floats in the pool when not in use as they may prove to be a deadly temptation for toddlers trying to reach them.

Set up as many barriers as possible to make it difficult for a child to get into the pool area when not in use. This would include installing door alarms, locks and safety covers to help prevent accidents.

If the pool has a filter, keep children away from it and other mechanical devices as the suction force may cause injuries and even drowning. In case of an emergency, know how to shut off these devices and clearly post this information for easy use.

Always advise insureds to pay attention to the weather. Excessive heat can cause dizziness-even in and around a pool-and never swim during thunder and lightning. In the event of an accident, clearly post emergency numbers on the phone. Keep a first aid kit, ring buoys and reaching poles near the pool. Advise insureds to take basic first aid and CPR training.

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