The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

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Swimming Pool Fencing – Water Safety for Children and Homeowner’s Swimming Pool Liability

According to SafeKids Worldwide, 50% – 90% of all drownings and near-drownings in backyard pools would be prevented if a four-sided isolation fence was installed.

Amazingly, also according to SafeKids Worldwide, only four states (CA, AZ, FL, and OR) require some type of fencing around residential pools.   FENCING SHOULD BE MANDATORY IN EVERY STATE.   Don’t agree with me?  Ask Jo-Ann Morris.  Ask Michelle Zieg.

Every residential pool should be fenced in… period!   If children reside in the home or will ever visit, four-sided fencing is a must!  In addition, while it is not substitute for fencing or supervision, every child should learn to swim.  Self-closing gates and pool alarms like the SAFETY TURTLE should also be used.  Every parent should follow the Safer 3.

Eric Probst, an attorney at the Law Firm of Porzio, Bromberg and Newman in Morristown, NJ has represented the swimming pool industry for over ten years.  While he states clearly this message does NOT constitute legal advice, he comments:  “I can tell you that a pool fence is definitely not a luxury.  Fencing in your backyard pool is about safety. Child drowning issues are paramount for the builder and homeowner alike.  Children are too often injured who have parents with the best intentions of keeping them.” As for  liability, no hard-fast rules exist for imposing liability on a homeowner. Each case turns on the status of the person injured (trespasser, invitee, guest) and the facts of the case. Whether a state where a drowning occurs requires the pool owner to have a fence around the pool or not, would be but one fact for the court and jury to consider when evaluating whether the homeowner is responsible for the child’s drowning. There are many other facts that could exist that would affect the ultimate liability determination.

Several other experts have weighed in as well:

Rebecca Wear Robinson • Pool fencing can only be considered a luxury by people who don’t understand why fencing is needed. Indoor plumbing was considered a luxury as well – and people became sick and died from contaminated water sources (and still do in many areas). The bigger issue is communicating to everyone why a pool fence is no different from seat belts and car seats in cars – we have to teach children how to be safe for their whole life, but while they are learning we have to help keep them safe. A pool without a fence is no different from sending a 2-year old off to preschool with a cheery wave, hoping they figure traffic patterns successfully.

Jim Reiser • Rebecca is absolutely right! Fences around public pools are a requirement, and they should be for residential as well. No fence?  No pool!  It should be law!  Whether it’s selfishness or ignorance, the lack of fencing around residential pools is basically killing innocent babies, toddlers, and young children. The homeowner, I would assume would not only be extremely liable if a child drown in their pool, they would have to live with that for the rest of their life.

Jeff Steers • I believe a pool fence is not a luxury, in terms of either safety or facility financial considerations.

It is my understanding (and I’ve been wrong before) that here in Indiana, a fence is required around pools in residential areas but not legally necessary in rural areas. I could be cynical and suggest the residential requirement is more for liability regarding the neighbor kids rather than legislating good parenting skills for the homeowner’s own children, but again, I could be wrong.

If we had a residential pool when our sons were toddlers, we certainly would have had a fence, not around the backyard, but the pool itself. We know how quickly very young children can escape even the best parental monitoring and supervision, and constantly hear news reports about how that has ended with a drowning in their own home pool.

Changing gears, what is the additional expense of installing a fence at a facility compared to the huge liability expense should an incident occur? And I would presume that the absence of a fence would create a larger ongoing liability expense in terms of increased premiums.

When I say liability expense, I am also speaking in terms of moral and ethical liability as well as financial. First, who wants to be known as the Drowning Place? Second, and more importantly, do we not have a caring responsibility toward our fellow human beings to prevent access when rescue staff are not available? To be even more melodramatic, not installing a fence around a pool is like the Titanic builders saying, “Ah, we don’t need so many lifeboats…”

I agree; I see a pool fence as not only very important, but as near necessity.

Don Coppedge • I’m glad we are on the same page. As someone in my line of work, I can’t tell you how many times I have come across misinformed consumers who do not think they can ever become victims of an accident; therefore, don’t need a pool fence.

I hope this blog will serve as a means to prevent childhood drowning.

Please feel free to add your comments too.  If you are pro-fencing—I will approve them!

The International Swimming Hall of Fame has named Jim Reiser the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Hunt Newman Award for his curriculum and approach in teaching infants, toddlers, and children to swim.  Jim is the first American to win the award in 10 years.

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University Online Swim Instructor Certification  and curriculum, make sure to visit us at

Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).


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October 18, 2011 at 4:26 pm
  • October 19, 2011 at 8:54 amVictoria Campbell

    Very important issue. When my kids were young & I lived in Florida our house had one always even before the law before we moved into that house. Here in Georgia it boogles my mind that almost no pools even where young children live have child safety fencing. My own pool does not however we also have a stockade fence around our yard and I no longer have young children. I do not as a rule invite families over with young kids for this very reason and if I do I personally watch that child and admonish others to do the same. If I had young children around regularly I would not think twice, I would get the fencing.

  • October 19, 2011 at 4:53 pmJim Reiser

    Thank you, Victoria, for your great insight. I think I mentioned the Safety Turtle in the blog, this could be a great additional barrier when you have company. My father-in-law lives on the lake. I bought the Safety Turtle, which is portable, and we take it and put the turtle wristband on all the young childrenwho can’t swim whether they are in the house or outside. It works so great I now carry the product on the Swim Lessons University online store. There’s a cool video on the page as well where it was featured on the one and only… “SUPER NANNY!”

  • March 13, 2012 at 7:31 amPool fencing Brisbane

    No matter, there are small children or not, pool fencing is always needed for safety. Prevention is always better than cure.

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