Prevent unsupervised pool access with pool safety equipment like physical barriers and alarm systems. But don’t stop there—learn which water rescue tools you should always have by your pool just in case a fun swim session turns into an emergency.
Prevent Pool Disasters With These Top Pool Safety Products
Pool Safety Equipment Guide
What is pool safety equipment?
Pool safety equipment typically accomplishes three main goals:
- Preventing pool access
- Sounding the alarm when a person or pet enters the water
- Rescuing someone who has entered the water
Use a combination of barriers, alarms, emergency rescue equipment to keep everyone safe in and around your pool.
Compare types of pool alarms
Pool alarms can detect motion at the pool gate or in the water itself. Some water breach sensors float on the water unobtrusively, whereas others mount to the side of the pool.
Detects water breach
|Pool fence alarm||$56.95||Fence|
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|Infrared detector||$119.99||Above water line|
|View on Amazon|
|Underwater motion alarm||$211.95||Underwater|
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|Floating motion sensor||$219.00||Floats on water|
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*Amazon.com price as of post date. Read full disclaimer.
Pool fence alarm
These swimming pool alarms are designed to run atop the perimeter of the wall or fence surrounding your pool. Using either infrared beams to detect movement or magnetic connections that set off an alarm when broken, you’ll know if someone is around your pool.
Normally, these fence-mounted pool alarms are a much cheaper alternative to the pool-mounted devices (around $50). You’ll have more time to respond to an alarm too since these alerts will sound as soon as someone enters the pool area.
These infrared systems are installed poolside and sound a high-decibel alarm when breached. They’re usually much more expensive but will tell you when someone is actually in the water.
Most models don’t sound unless an object heavier than 15 pounds enters the water. This means it won’t go off if a leaf drops into the pool and give you a scare for no reason. This can help keep your pets or other animals safer too since most critters will come in above this weight class.
Underwater motion alarm
These pool security systems use a sonar grid beneath the water’s surface to detect a breach and sound an alarm.
Since they use sonar instead of motion, these systems won’t sound false alarms due to wind-generated movement of the water. However, they are sensitive enough to detect even the smallest body (around 15 pounds). These systems are completely automated and re-arm themselves automatically. They provide an excellent primary security system for any size or shape of pool.
Underwater motion pool alarms are always on. You’ll need to physically take it out of the pool and switch it to its “sleep” mode before jumping in the pool so the alarm won’t sound.
Floating motion detector
These surface-based motion alarms are popular among pool owners because they tend to be relatively inexpensive and work well when a calm, flat surface is disturbed. Floating motion detectors use electronic signals to measure displaced water and waves created by objects of a certain weight. They can be used in any style of pool, including inflatable ones.
While reasonably effective, surface alarms can sound an alert when disturbed by strong winds, so you can get a false alarm.
Types of pool barriers
Pool barriers aren’t 100% guaranteed to keep children or pets out of the pool area, but they can slow down the efforts of those natural-born Houdinis to give you a little more time to react.
There are several types of pool barriers to choose from, but you should check your state and local laws before making a purchase to ensure your pick is up to code. For example, California requires a five-foot fence for residential pools.1
Fences for temporary pools
Temporary or portable pool fences typically consist of mesh fabric attached to stakes. They’re a must-have option for seasonal above-ground pools and in-ground pools alike.
Some models, like the Life Saver Fencing Section Kit, are designed to fit into drilled concrete holes. Others, like the Aqua Select Above Ground Swimming Pool Safety Fence, mount directly to the sides of rigid above-ground pools.
If your inflatable or portable above-ground pool sits on grass, one option includes using T-posts and wire fence rolls to create a temporary barrier. For a sturdier fence with a built-in gate, purchase several four-foot portable puppy play pens and attach them to the T-posts with heavy-duty zip ties. It’s unconventional, but it works.
Some pool covers are solely designed to keep the water clean, whereas others double as safety devices. To ensure the cover doesn’t collapse if people or pets walk on it, choose a pool cover labelled as ASTM F1346-91 certified. This means the cover has been proven to hold at least 485 pounds and that children cannot easily lift the cover to crawl underneath it.
Safety rope lines
Safety rope lines float on top of the water to delineate the deep end of the pool. The floating buoys give kids a constant visual reminder to stay in the shallow end where they can touch the bottom and stand up if needed.
Of course, it’s very easy for kids to ignore safety rope lines, so an adult should always be present to enforce pool rules.
The American Red Cross offers a free online water safety course designed for parents and caregivers. Consider signing up for a CPR or lifeguard course too.
Ring buoy and throwing rope
It’s not always time efficient or even safe to jump into the pull and attempt a hand-to-hand rescue. Instead, toss a ring buoy to a struggling swimmer and tow them to the side of the pool so they can safely get out.
Ring buoys typically come in 24-inch and 30-inch diameters. Lifeguards might use the 30-inch buoy when rescuing multiple people, but a 24-inch buoy will suffice for residential pools. The smaller buoy is also easier to throw and tow.
Be sure to purchase a throwing rope long enough to reach across the full length of the pool.
Life hook or shepherd’s crook
If someone in your pool cannot grab on to a ring buoy, you can pull them to the side of the pool by cupping their lower back with a life hook. Life hooks—also called safety hooks or shepherd’s crooks—come in standard shapes. Telescoping poles conveniently shorten for storage but extend for rescue missions.
Make sure you purchase a pole capable of reaching the middle of your pool while you stand firmly positioned on the pool deck. Sixteen feet is a common life hook pole length.
Anti-entrapment drain covers
The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act of 2007 requires all pools installed or manufactured in the U.S. to feature an anti-entrapment drain cover.2 Without such a cover, the suction from a pool drain is strong enough to trap a small child underwater, especially if their hair gets caught in the drain.
If your pool was made or installed prior to 2008, make sure it has this life-saving cover.
Safety Vacuum Release System
Safety vacuum release systems (SVRS) represent an alternative to an anti-entrapment drain cover. In the event a child or object does become trapped against a drain, the valve detects the increase in pressure, triggering a release in pressure that frees the victim. They’re pricey but worthwhile for busy pools, especially if your children enjoy playing underwater.
Animal/pet safety equipment
If your pet or other animals fall into your pool without your knowledge, make sure they have an easy way to get out. From ramps for dogs and cats to bridges for frogs and other water-loving creatures, you can keep every creature safe around your pool.
These won’t tell you when an animal is in the pool, but it will help them get out on their own.
How to leverage your smart home system for pool safety
Smart home security systems offers some features that pool-specific alarms lack:
- Cell phone alerts
- Emergency dispatch (only available through professional monitoring plans)
- Two-way audio
Here’s a sample “smart” poolside set up.
Motion sensing outdoor camera
The downfall of most pool alarms is that they only alert you when someone has already fallen into the water. Give yourself more time to react by installing a motion sensing outdoor camera aimed at the entire pool area. This is especially useful if there’s a possibility of kids climbing over the pool fence to bypass the locked gate.
At minimum, set up phone alerts so that you’re immediately notified when the camera senses motion.
For a more robust alert system, choose a camera that activates a built-in siren and flood light when motion is detected. Or, create custom automations using your smart home security app or If This Then That. For example, you can make the Ring outdoor siren go off and have your Philips Hue lights flash red when there’s someone near the pool.
Smart door sensor on pool gate
While the Poolguard door alarm is an excellent standalone product to have, consider adding a smart door sensor as a backup.
In the event you’re not within earshot of the alarm, the smart door sensor triggers a phone notification. If you pay for professional monitoring services, the monitors will also evaluate the triggered sensor and dispatch first responders if they can’t reach you. This quick response could save a life if someone ends up falling into the pool.
If you have a Ring Alarm system, you can get an outdoor contact sensor designed to withstand the elements. Link Interactive also sells an outdoor entry sensor. You'll need to get a weatherproof case for other brands' door sensors since they aren’t designed for outdoor use.
Medical alert system
Even with all the sensors in the world, kids can fall into the water in the blink of an eye. If you need back-up, the last thing you want to do is leave your kid to go find a phone. A poolside medical alert system can make all the difference by connecting you to 911 in an instant.
Keep the base station near the pool so you can receive first-aid instructions from the dispatcher through the two-way speaker
Prepare for the worst, hope for the best
Sometimes we don’t realize what our kids (or pets!) are capable of until they actually do it—and that includes cruising toward the pool and flopping in the second we turn our backs. Prepare for your child’s “undaunted courage” phase with multiple levels of pool safety alarms and equipment.
Sign your child up for an infant self rescue course to teach them how to float in water should they ever accidentally fall in. This reduces the chance of them inhaling water while you rush to the rescue.
Pool safety equipment FAQ
Pool lifeguards use ring buoys and life hooks. They also carry a pointed flotation device called a rescue can, rescue buoy, or Burnside buoy. A lifeguard’s rectangular flotation device is called a rescue tube. Oh, and don’t forget the whistle.
If it’s pointy on one end and has multiple hand-holds, it’s a rescue can. If it’s flat and rectangular, it’s a rescue tube. Both allow lifeguards to safely tow a distressed swimmer to safety.
Water safety devices help people float in water. Some are used by lifeguards for rescue missions. Others, like life jackets and arm floaties, keep people afloat as soon as they hit the water.
Related articles on SafeWise
- Contra Costa Health Services, “Pool Enclosure Requirements.” Accessed June 20, 2022.
- The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals, “Summary Analysis of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act.” Accessed June 20, 2022.
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