Swimming Pools Are a Great Way to Beat the Heat, but Be Sure to Consider the Insurance and Safety Implications

NEW YORK, July 11, 2007 — With temperatures soaring throughout the country, many people will be taking advantage of the heat-beating delights of a swimming pool. Whether you have a luxury in-ground pool, or plan to blow up the simplest of inflatable above-ground pools, it is important to consider the insurance and safety implications, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I).

Swimming pools have been steadily rising in popularity, with more than 8.3 million households owning an in-ground or above-ground pool—up almost 10 percent since 2002, according to an annual report by the Association of Pool and Spa professions. If you include hot tubs, the number rises to almost 14 million.

“All pools—from a simple kiddy pool to an aquatic extravaganza—can be dangerous and need to be properly insured and comply with local safety standards,” said Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson for the I.I.I.

According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control, over 3,300 people drowned in 2004. Among children ages 1 to 4, the majority drowned in residential swimming pools and had been out of sight of their parents or caretakers for less than five minutes. Fatal drowning remains the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14 years; for every child who dies from drowning, five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.

The I.I.I. suggests taking the following steps when considering a pool:

  • Contact your town or municipality
    Each town will have its own definition of a “pool,” often based on its size and water depth. If the pool you are planning to buy meets the definition, then you 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 your insurance agent or company representative
    Let your insurance company know that you have a pool, since it will increase your liability risk. Pools are considered an “attractive nuisance” and it may be advisable to purchase additional liability insurance. Most homeowners policies include a minimum of $100,000 worth of liability protection. Pool owners, however, may want to consider increasing the amount to $300,000 or $500,000.

You may also want to talk to your agent or company representative about purchasing an umbrella liability policy. For an additional premium of about $200 to $300 a year, you can get $1 million of liability protection over and above what you have on your home. This would also provide added liability protection when you drive.

If the pool, itself, is expensive, you should also have enough insurance protection to replace it in the event it is destroyed by a storm or other disaster.

The I.I.I. also recommends taking the following safety precautions:

  1. fencing around the pool area to keep people from using the pool without your knowledge. In addition to the fences or other barriers required by many towns, consider creating “layers of protection” around the pool, i.e. setting up as many barriers as possible (door alarms, locks and safety covers) to the pool area when not in use.
  2. Never leave small children unsupervised—even for a few seconds. And 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.
  3. Keep children away from pool filters and other mechanical devices as the suction force may injure them or prevent them from surfacing. In case of an emergency, know how to shut off these devices and clearly post this information.
  4. Be sure all pool users know how to swim. Learners should be accompanied by a good swimmer. If you have children, have them take swimming lessons as early as possible. And, don’t allow anyone to swim alone.
  5. Check the pool area regularly for glass bottles, toys or other potential accident hazards. Also, keep CD players, radios and other electrical devices away from pools or nearby wet surfaces.
  6. Clearly post emergency numbers on the phone, in the event of an accident. Keep a first aid kit, ring buoys and reaching poles near the pool. You may also want to consider taking basic first aid and CPR training.

For more insurance and safety information, go to the I.I.I. Web site.