How to Choose the Right Swimming Pool Alarm to increase Swimming Pool Safety
Residential pool alarms are only one of the many layers of protection that should be implemented in and around the backyard swimming pool to lower the incidence of childhood drowning accidents. There are so many varieties of pool alarms available to pool owners, though, that it may be difficult to know which one to choose. By considering the following information regarding pool alarms, you should be more prepared to be able to make an excellent choice for the safety of the children in your life.
An evaluation of swimming pool alarms conducted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in 2000 tested three different types of pool alarms: surface wave sensors, subsurface disturbance sensors, and a wristband sensor. Surface wave sensors float on the surface of the water. Subsurface disturbance sensors attach to the side of the pool, and a portion of the sensor is submerged below the water’s surface. The wristband sensor is worn by the child and the alarm sounds if the sensor goes underwater.
The CPSC’s study included many different tests of each type of alarm in 6 backyard swimming pools of various styles and shapes. The goals of the study were “to determine whether the surface and subsurface wave sensors would alarm when a test object entered the pool, and to determine whether the wristband would alarm when exposed to pool water.” Additionally, the study tested for false alarms that that possibly might go off inadvertantly due to weather such as wind and rain, and those that may be triggered by an object such as a volleyball or large pool float.
According to the results of the CPSC study, the surface wave sensors performed less positively as the subsurface disturbance sensors when a test object was thrown into the pool. The study concludes that subsurface disturbance sensors “were more consistent in alarming and less likely to false alarm than the surface alarms.” The wristband sensor sounded an alarm each time it was submerged in pool water and each time it was exposed to other water sources, such as that from a faucet or hose.
The CPSC study did not include tests of infrared motion detection alarms, which are another type of swimming pool alarm system. Infrared motion detection systems routinely set of an alarm when a child, adult, or object enters the beam path that surrounds the pool. Some alarm systems include a subsurface disturbance sensor in addition to the motion detection feature to increase the level of protection.
Factors to look for when purchasing a pool alarm
While pool alarms may come with many more features than are presented here, the following is a list of recommended features to look for when deciding on a pool alarm for your own backyard swimming pool:
- Easy installation
- Tamper proof
- Includes a remote receiver with a range of up to 200 ft or more
- Low battery indicator on alarm and on receiver
- Recommended for the size and shape of your swimming pool
- Able to detect an object as small as a 1 year old child, approximately 18 pounds
- A loud and distinct alarm should sound within 20 seconds when a child simulator is dropped into the pool.
After you decide which pool alarm you need, performing regular tests of the alarm’s effectiveness will ensure that your alarm continues to function properly over time.
Finally and most importantly, no swimming pool alarm is totally infallible no matter how many technologies and features it has and no matter what claims are made by the manufacturer. Pool alarms should be considered as one of many layers of protection in the effort to halt children from drowning, along with protective barriers, door alarms, and safety pool covers.
The first and most important way to protect children from drowning accidents, though, is to provide close and constant supervision by a responsible adult. A combination of safety measures are required for a safe backyard environment for your loved ones.
Whitfield, Troy W. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. “An Evaluation of Swimming Pool Alarms.” May 2000.