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Layers of Protection - Barriers

Barriers & Alarms

Barriers that Limit Access & Alarms that Alert You

70% of drownings among young children happen during non-swim times. Since you can’t alway keep your eyes on the water, it is important to use physical barriers to restrict access and alarms to alert you.

Layers of Protection - Barriers - Fencing


All fencing should be at a minimum of 48”-60” above grade, depending upon your state, county, and municipality requirements for pool and spa barriers. For more information on getting a pool fence please click here.

Property Protection with Perimeter Fencing:

Keeps out neighboring children and uninvited adults.

Keep the following in mind:

  • DOES NOT restrict access from the home itself
  • DOES NOT protect children or guests that live in the home or are invited to the home.

4-Sided Isolation Fencing:

Completely separates pool and spa areas from the home and other structures.

Restricts unauthorized access from:

  • Neighbors’ yards
  • Nearby Buildings
  • Inside the House

A four sided isolation fence reduces a child’s drowning risk by 83% compared to three-sided perimeter fencing. The preferred fencing for pool and spa protection.

Permanent Fencing:

Each type of permanent fencing has their own recommendations and specifications:

Wood, Vinyl, Plexiglass, and Brick:

  • Latticework:
    • Maximum opening should not exceed 1 ¾ inches.
  • Horizontal and Vertical members:
    • Distance between the top side of the horizontal members is less than 45 in.
    • Horizontal members should be swimming pool side of the fence.
    • Spacing between vertical members and within decorative cutouts should not exceed 1 ¾ inches.
    • If the distance between the tops of horizontal members is more than 45 inches, the horizontal members can be on the side of the fence facing away from the pool.
    • Spacing between the vertical members should not exceed 4 inches.
    • Decorative cutout spaces should not exceed 1 ¾ inches.

Solid Barriers:
Should have no indents and protrusions other than normal construction tolerances and masonry joints.

Mesh size should not exceed 1 ¼ in. square unless slats, fastened at the top or bottom of the fence, are used to reduce mesh openings to no more than 1 ¾ in.

Removable & Mesh Fencing:

Most affordable option. When properly designed, install, and maintained according to the manufacturer’s instructions, removable mesh fencing can provide the same protection as an isolation fence from other materials. This applies only to when it is in PLACE. Gates on mesh fencing should still be self-closing AND self-latching.


Residential and public pool and spa areas should be self-closing and self-latching to accommodate locking devices.

Check for the following:

  • Opens AWAY from the pool and never propped open.
  • Should have an opening no greater than ½” within 18” of the latch.
  • Double-check the latching mechanism is securely fastened every time after opened.

Contact a professional or manufacturer to any adjustments or repairs needed.

Latches and House Doors:

Should be kept locked when the pool or spa is not in use. Store the key out of children’s reach and make sure all adults know where the key is kept.

Specifications include:

  • At least 54” above bottom of gate(s)
  • Release latch should be at least 3” below the top of the gate on the side facing the pool or spa.

All house doors providing direct access from the home to the pool should be equipped with self-closing, self-latching devices with a release mechanism placed no lower than 54” above the floor.

Layers of Protection - Barriers - Covers


Pool covers offer a physical layer of protection when preventing unauthorized access to pools and spas.

Pool & Spa Safety Covers:

Choose only safety covers that meet the ASTM International voluntary standard F1346-91. Covers should be properly used and maintained on a regular basis. Rain water that collects on top should be promptly removed. Keep children and pets off all safety covers.

Power-Operated Covers:

Most convenient, allowing for one-handed operation as frequently as need. Provides both seasonal and daily use.

Layers of Protection - Barriers - Alarms


Alarms can be added to windows, doors, gates, and the pool to alert unauthorized access to pools and spas.

Subsurface Alarms:

These types of alarms attach over the edge of the pool, the edge of the pool wall, or under water. Designed to sound an alarm immediately when the pool is entered and resets after a swim session. These alarms are best when professionally installed as to avoid false-alarms.

New Advancements in Alarm & Drowning Detection Technology

There are advancements taking place in the development of drowning detection and alarm technology. Many of the innovations include artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies. Evaluation of new technology will take time, however advanced water safety technology is promising.

Risk Advisories:

Caution and consideration is advised for the following items when used around children.

  1. Sliding Glass Doors: Self-closing devices are available for use, however requires frequent maintenance to keep the track cleaned and the closing mechanism in proper working order.
  2. Fence Maintenance: Fences and gates should be checked on a monthly basis for compromises or damage such as loose or broken fence slats. Adjust hinges or springs if gates are not self-closing properly, keep an eye out for any ground shifts due to weather or natural disasters as they can cause latches to misalign.
  3. Eliminate Fence Climbing Access:
    1. All items near the pool area such as chairs, tables, storage bins, ice chests, playground equipment, etc.. at least 4’ away from the fence and secured in place.
    2. Ensuring children and animals are unable to dig into into loose soil under fencing.
    3. Trimming nearby trees that would give a child the opportunity to climb a fence.
    4. Not planting trees or placing large play structures near fencing areas
  4. Ladders: When above ground pool ladders are not in use, they should be secured with gates or fencing with proper latches, or removed if possible. Ladders should never be accessible to children without adult supervision.


Risk Advisories:

Caution and consideration is advised for the following items when used around children.

  1. Semi-Automatic & Manual Covers:
    Popular with certain pool designs and found more often in certain areas of the country. Some are designed for daily use, however most require replacements after every swimming session and require diligent commitment. Should not be a substitute for isolation fencing.
  2. Pool Safety Nets:
    Must be removed and replaced after every swim session, but work well for long term seasonal cover to allow the pool to be serviced. Requires diligent commitment. Should not be a substitute for isolation fencing.
  3. Winter Safety Covers:
    Made of mesh or vinyl, these provide cover during the off-season, but require tools and strength for proper installation. NOT FOR DAILY USE. Must get a customized cover that fits the contours of the pool and be routinely checked for wear and tear. Vinyl covers require constant pumping to prevent rain or snow melt on top of the cover.
  4. Solar Pool Covers:
    Solar/floating pool covers are designed to keep pool water warm and minimize evaporation of water and pool chemicals. If used, solar pool covers must be removed COMPLETELY before use of pool or spa.

These covers ARE NOT safety devices and are a serious entrapment hazard.


Risk Advisories:

Caution and consideration is advised for the following items when used around children.

  1. On-Body Alarms (Personal Immersion Alarms):
    Worn on the body and will set off the alarm when wet. While a great layer of protection for children visiting near open water or visiting a home with a pool/spa, these are not recommended as a first layer of protection due to the discipline needed for proper use.
  2. Surface Alarms (Floating Alarms):
    Can detect motion on the water’s surface. Can be heard in a home and in the pool area when the water is breached. However, many models have a high false-alarm rate due to wind and rain. Surface alarms should not be relied on as a first-hand defense.
  3. Perimeter Alarms:
    Most use lasers to detect movement, similar to an automatic garage door system. When something crosses the alarm, the alarm goes off. Pets and other outside disturbances can trigger false-alarms.


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Know the 5 Layers of Protection

Prevent the tragedy of drowning by implementing the 5 layers of protection.

Barriers & Alarms

BARRIERS & ALARMS — It's important to use four-sided fencing with self-closing, self-latching gates, pool safety covers, and alarm systems, to help prevent children and unauthorized adults from accessing water unsupervised.

Learn More About Barriers & Alarms

SUPERVISION — Stay vigilant and aware of your surroundings with close, constant, and capable adult supervision from a designated water watcher or lifeguard anytime children are in or around water.

Learn More About Supervision
Water Competency

WATER COMPETENCY — Every child and adult should be equipped with the skills to protect themselves in water by learning and enhancing their basic water safety skills to reduce the risk of drowning and aquatic-related injuries.

Learn More About Water Competency
Life Jackets

LIFE JACKETS — When used appropriately, life jackets protect you when you are not expecting to be in the water, especially around open water. Ensure your life jackets are tested & approved by the USCG.

Learn More About Life Jackets
Emergency Preparation

EMERGENCY PREPARATION — Knowing how to prepare for an emergency with CPR training with rescue breaths and basic water rescue skills can make the difference between life and death. Have a phone available and ready to call 911.

Learn More About Emergency Prep.
Layers Work Together

LAYERS OF PROTECTION — Water safety isn’t just during swim time. Each layer should be used together when in or around water to help reduce the risk of drowning. You never know which layer will save a life.

Learn More About Layers