Here are tips to install and maximize effective pool barriers

Apr 6, 2023, 3:00 PM

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Phoenix Children’s Hospital reports that the typical medical costs for a child injured in a non-fatal drowning can cost as much as $250,000 per year for long-term care. A barrier, such as a pool fence, costs roughly $2,000 and can reduce drowning risk when properly used. Talk about savings . . . and we don’t mean just the monetary kind.


Barriers to the pool, hot tub, or spa are critical to pool safety. A barrier is something that keeps you away from danger. The Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona (DCPA) suggests a fence around the pool with a self-closing, self-latching gate as a primary barrier.

Primary barriers are devices that keep a child (or anyone who should not be left unattended) away from a pool, spa, or hot tub. A pool fence with a broken gate is not a barrier.

There are many options when it comes to pool fences and other barriers.

The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA) offers these pool barrier suggestions:

Fencing – This primary barrier is isolates the pool or spa with a minimum four-foot-high enclosure. Where the dwelling forms one of the sides, and there are doors or windows leading from the dwelling to the pool area, one or more additional methods should be used. Fences must be non-climbable, have self-closing and self-latching gates, and comply with state and/or local requirements. Chainlink, wooden picket, mesh, or other materials, as permitted by local codes, are options. Make sure there isn’t anything against the fence that a child could climb and thus jump over.

Automatic, Powered Safety Cover — This primary barrier with an impenetrable covering completely covers the pool, blocking access to water. The cover is operated electronically or by a key, independent of all other pool equipment. If relied on as the primary safety barrier, the cover should always be closed and locked whenever the pool or spa is not in use. The cover must meet ASTM F1346 Standard Performance Specification for safety covers and labeling requirements for all covers for swimming pools, spas, and hot tubs.

Lockable Hot Tub Safety Cover — Factory-built hot tubs are typically equipped with a lockable safety cover. If relied on as the primary safety barrier, the cover should always be closed and locked whenever the hot tub is not in use. The cover must meet ASTM F1346 Standard.

Manual Pool or Spa Safety Cover — An impenetrable covering that completely covers the pool, spa, or hot tub, blocking access to water and is considered a second barrier. The cover must meet ASTM F1346 Standard.

Self-closing / self-latching devices for doors and latching devices for windows – Should be used in conjunction with fences and covers. These devices keep all doors and windows leading to the pool, spa, or hot tub area securely closed, limiting access by children. Devices include hinge pin replacement, sliding glass door closer, and swing arm.


As another layer of protection, install security pool detectors and alarms. If a barrier is breached, these tools will immediately alert you.

Fence Gate Alarm — Sounds when the fence gate is open.

Door, Screen, or Window Alarms – Used in conjunction with a fence and/or cover, an alarm sounds when the door, screen, or window is opened. The cover should be listed in compliance with UL 2017. The deactivation switch should be located at least 48 to 54 inches above the door threshold.

Infrared Detectors – This wireless detection alarm sounds when the area around the pool perimeter is entered. Options include light beams and body energy.

Pool Alarm – This alarm is placed in the pool and sounds upon detection of accidental or unauthorized entrance into the water. Alarm types include surface water (wave motion), pressure waves (acoustic), and electronic monitoring system.

Child Alarm – This alarm is clipped on the child and sounds when the child exceeds a certain distance or is submerged in water. It operates by a clip-on transmitter with an in-home receiver.

These devices should always be used in combination with at least one primary barrier. For aboveground pools, always remove the ladder when the pool is not in use.


An interactive map provided by DCPA provides the Pool and Spa Barrier Codes for Maricopa, Pima, and Pinal Counties. If you live in another county, contact them directly for their pool fence requirements.

DCPA and PHTA have many pool safety resources on their websites. Other water safety organizations include:

Beyond the Backyard

While the focus here is on pools, hot tubs, and spas, it is just as critical to install barriers in the home. An open bathroom door is not a barrier because a small child could get in a bathtub. Just two inches of water could cause a drowning incident. Keep bathroom doors closed and keep toilet lids down. Never leave buckets of water unattended.

Practice water safety at the beach, lake, pond, home and anywhere there is open water.

Join Rosie on the House every Saturday from 8 a.m.-11 a.m. on KTAR News 92.3 FM. If you’d like to send us questions or comments, email Follow us on Twitter and “Like” us on Facebook. For more do-it-yourself tips, go to An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert since 1988, Rosie Romero is the host of the syndicated Saturday morning Rosie on the House radio program. Call 888-767-4348 with questions & comments.

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Here are tips to install and maximize effective pool barriers