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Do you need pool insurance this summer?

With the hot, lazy days of summer just over the horizon, many families look forward to cooling off in the backyard pool.

But before you become too relaxed, remember that a pool carries risks, says Elaine Baisden, vice president of Travelers Personal Insurance.pool insurance

"First and foremost, make sure you are properly insured," she says.

Generally, a standard homeowner’s insurance policy will cover most potential physical damages to your pool caused by a disaster such as a flood, fire or hurricane.

However, a homeowner’s biggest concern is likely to be liability coverage related to a pool accident.

Each year, more than 3,500 people drown in the United States, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in five of those deaths involve children 14 and younger. Many of these deaths occur in swimming pools.

In many towns and cities, the law requires you to take steps to reduce the dangers associated with pools of certain sizes and depths.

These may include installing fencing, locks and other safety equipment, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

What kind of pool insurance do you need?

But even if you are diligent about safety, injuries and deaths still can happen.

"There is no sure way to protect homeowners from all risks associated with owning a pool," says Nancy Smeltzer, a Nationwide spokeswoman.

Such an accident can leave you liable, and vulnerable to lawsuits that could cost you thousands or even millions of dollars.

Home insurance policies typically include at least $100,000 in liability protection. However, the Insurance Information Institute (III) recommends that homeowners with pools carry at least $300,000 to $500,000 in extra coverage.

Pool owners also may want to purchase an umbrella liability insurance policy, especially considering the potentially catastrophic nature of pool-related injuries, says Lori Conarton, spokeswoman for the Insurance Institute of Michigan.

"Umbrella policies are relatively inexpensive and would provide some peace of mind when you have a pool," Conarton says.

For about $200 to $300 each year, policyholders can purchase umbrella policies that provide $1 million or more in extra liability coverage, according to the III.

The extra coverage of an umbrella policy also protects you in other situations where you face liability risk, such as when you drive a car.

Does pool insurance cost more?

It is possible that simply installing a new pool will cause your insurance rates to increase, Conarton says.

"The risk of having a pool can raise a red flag for some companies," she says.

However, other insurers do not raise rates because of the presence of a pool, she says. And some companies only raise rates if the pool has a diving board.

Conarton urges homeowners to talk to their agent to learn more.

"The best thing to do is find out how their home insurance coverage would be impacted before they go ahead and install the pool," Conarton says.

8 tips to reduce swimming pool risk

By their very nature, pools can pose life-threatening dangers to swimmers who are inexperienced or careless.

Still, there are plenty of ways to reduce risk. Smeltzer says owners of both in-ground and above-ground pools should have a fence with a lockable gate installed around their pool.

She also recommends installing diving boards and slides that are appropriate for your pool's design. The manufacturer or another expert can tell you if such accessories are a match for your pool's water depth, she says.

Make sure all such accessories are both installed properly and well-maintained, Smeltzer says.

"Consider using a pool alarm that can alert someone inside the house when somebody has entered the water," she says.

Baisden says all new swimmers should be accompanied by an experienced swimmer who has lifesaving skills, such as CPR training.

"Make sure there is adequate lifesaving equipment in the pool area," she says. Examples include a throwing rope with lifesaving rings, a reaching pole or a rescue hook.

III also offers several tips to reduce the risk of death or injury related to a pool accident. They include:

Never leave children unattended around a pool, and remove toys, floats and other child temptations from the pool when the items aren’t in use.

Keep children away for any device with a suction force, such as a pool filter. Also, know how to turn off these devices in an emergency.

Make sure all people who use the pool know how to swim. Enroll your children in swimming lessons as soon as it’s feasible.

Keep the pool area clear of bottles, toys or other hazards. Keep electrical devices away from the pool and its surroundings.

Don’t swim when it is too hot or when lightning is nearby.

Don’t allow people to swim alone, or to swim after drinking alcohol.

Keep a first-aid kit and list of emergency phone numbers near the pool.

Never dive into an above-ground pool. Know the depth of the water in an in-ground pool and check it before diving. Also, make sure swimmers in the pool stay clear of the diving board area.

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