Objectives. To determine the prevalence of proper fencing around outdoor swimming pools among US households and to describe this fencing in relation to demographic and other household factors. To estimate the number of drownings among children <5 years of age that might be prevented by having proper fencing around all residential pools in the United States.

Methods. A 1994, randomly dialed national telephone survey contacted 5238 adults who reported demographic information and household characteristics including whether the household had an outdoor swimming pool and the fencing around the pool. Data were weighted to obtain national estimates and percentages. The number of preventable drownings was estimated with a population-attributable risk equation.

Results. Approximately 18.5 million American households owned or had access to an outdoor swimming pool in 1994, and 76% (13.9 million) of them appeared to have had adequate fencing. Adequate fencing was associated with household income and type of home. We estimate that 19% of pool-related drownings among children <5 years of age in 1994 (88 drownings) might have been prevented if all residential pools in the United States were properly fenced.

Conclusions. Adequate pool fencing prevents a child from having access to a swimming pool if a responsible adult is not present and has been promoted as a method to prevent drowning. Our research suggests that even if all residential pools in the United States were properly fenced, most drownings among children <5 years of age would not be prevented. Thus, additional strategies to prevent drowning will be needed.

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