Avoid the backyard dangers of an inflatable pool

Gone are the days of the portable plastic pools shaped like a turtle or frog that provided relief from the hot summer sun up to your ankles. Nowadays, Canadians are beating the heat without the look of the kiddie pool or the high cost of installing an in-ground pool, but instead with the affordable inflatable pool.

While popular, inflatable pools are not without their controversy.

In April, 2006 Consumer Reports released a list of the 8 products you should NOT buy your children because of the injuries or potential injuries associated with them. Rounding out the top 3 were trampolines, all-terrain vehicles (ATV's) and you guessed it, inflatable pools.

Inflatable pools, which depending on their size can hold thousands of gallons of water, are inexpensive and relatively easy to install. Given their potential size, inflatable pools are often thought as too big to dump the water out of every day, and too inexpensive for most people to consider installing a fence. So they often sit unattended in the backyard leaving a drowning hazard up all summer long.

Make sure your inflatable pool is a source of summer fun and not tragedy. Learn what you can you do to ensure everyone stays cool in and around the pool.

Before going for a dip:

  • Read all instructions before installing, filling and using the pool.
  • Carry out regular pool maintenance to ensure all components are working properly and safely.
  • Consider only pools that have filter intake pipes with drain covers. Never use the pool if the drain cover is broken or missing.
  • Have a qualified professional inspect the drain cover on your pool to prevent body and hair entrapment.
  • Build a fence surrounding all pools - including inflatable pools - with a self closing and self-latching gate.

    According to the Canadian Red Cross if all home pools-including inflatables-were equipped with self-closing and self-latching gates, nearly all toddler pool drownings and about one-third of all toddler drownings could be eliminated.

  • Contact your local municipality to ensure you meet all relevant by-laws before installing and filling a pool. In many municipalities, inflatable pools are covered by the same bylaws as in-ground and above-ground pools.
  • Send children to swimming and water safety lessons.
  • Have emergency equipment including reaching poles, ring buoys, first aid kits, and a phone in the immediate pool area.

While swimming:

  • Always have an adult watching children in and around the pool.
  • Do not leave a child unattended as drowning can occur silently in seconds.
  • Keep young children, and children who cannot swim, within arms reach.
  • Children under 3, or children who cannot swim, should wear a life jacket or an approved floatation device.

After swimming:

  • Clear all toys out of the water and away from the edge. These can often tempt children to the water's edge or into the pool.
  • Install a cover with a lock on your backyard pool.
  • For added protection use a pool alarm for times when the pool is not in use.
  • Make sure all accesses to the pool area are locked.

Now about your home insurance

Most property insurance policies are fairly comprehensive. But because pools are not a part of every home, and on their own present unique risks, having a pool-even an inflatable pool-means you should speak with your insurer to make sure you'll have the coverage you need. After all, how can they insure you if they don't know what they are insuring?

Ask your insurer about liability coverage in case some gets hurt. There's a good chance, once you let your insurer know of your new inflatable pool, your liability coverage will be extended to include the pool with no increase in rates. Some insurers however, may increase your rates to cover this added risk. If this is the case, shop around for the coverage you need-you might find a better rate elsewhere.

Water damage
Owning an inflatable pool means there is potential for water damage should there be a "sudden and accidental escape of water". It's likely should your pool suddenly leak like this and cause damage, you'll be covered. This of course would only be possible if your insurer knows about the pool in advance of the water damage occurring.

Physical damage to the pool
What about damage to your pool because of freezing, or, the pool was punctured and is no longer usable? Can you make a claim for these items if you have pool coverage? Actually, the question is would you want to? The fact is that these pools are inexpensive and there's a good chance your deductible is more than the cost of replacing the pool on your own. When it comes to inflatable pools, the real need for home insurance coverage that includes your pool is likely to be your liability and the potential for water damage.

Special note to residents of Quebec. Property insurance policies in Quebec often specifically exclude pools. If you've got an inflatable pool you may need to purchase a specific "pool option" as an add-on to your policy. Each company has different rules for pools-speak with your insurer about your obligations with an inflatable pool.

Inflatable pools are relatively new on the market so how insurers treat them in respect to coverage under your home insurance policy will likely vary dramatically. Shop around to make sure you get the best rate, but most importantly, make sure you have coverage.

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