Importance of Required Signs at Public Pools and Spas
New signage requirements for public swimming places went into effect on September 1, 2012. Though some of
these signs seem to be stating the obvious, they are very necessary because many people do not know or actively
practice safety steps to prevent drowning or the spread of a waterborne illness.
The "Keep Closed" sign is now a requirement because many people leave the gate or door open or unlatched. This
presents a drowning hazard. Our inspectors regularly observe gates and doors that are propped open or simply
do not latch because of a mechanical problem. The Pool Safely initiative states that gates, fences, and other
barriers around the pool are one of the essential components of a safety system to prevent injuries or drownings.
The "Keep Closed" sign serves as a reminder to pool users to keep the gate or door closed at all times to prevent
a potential death.
Some people have questioned why the telephone number of the nearest emergency services unit must be posted. In
some areas, dialing 911 routes you to a dispatch center that is far away. (By dialing the California Highway
Patrol number, for example, you reach someone in Sacramento.) By providing a local number, you can be sure to
reach local emergency responders. The new requirement for posting the address of the pool you're swimming at
may seem counterintuitive, but if a visitor is using the pool, they may not know the physical address. You do
not want to be searching for that type of information to tell the dispatcher when you're in the middle of an emergency.
We have also received questions like, "Doesn't everyone know that they shouldn't swim when they have diarrhea?
Why does that sign need to be posted?" Contrary to popular belief, some people do swim when they have diarrhea
or they allow their children to swim when ill. This is evidenced by the recent CDC study (see article below) which
reported that almost 60% of public swimming pools have fecal contamination. A single bowel movement by an infected
person can release millions of Cryptosporidium parasites into the pool water. Even if the vast majority of people
do not swim with active diarrhea, all it takes is one infected person to contaminate the whole pool with
Cryptosporidium or another waterborne disease. The sign also specifies that you should not swim if you've had
diarrhea within the past 14 days. Although most people know that they shouldn't swim with active diarrhea, they
may not know that 14 days is the limiting time frame - they may go back to swimming after just a week. However,
they may still be shedding viruses or bacteria into the water. This sign is a helpful reminder for people not to
swim after a recent diarrheal illness.
If you have any questions about pool signage requirements, please call us at (800) 442-2283.
Fecal Contamination in Pools
A recently published study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that over half of
public swimming pools are contaminated with fecal matter (poop). Some 58% of pools were positive for E. coli and
59% were positive for Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Public swimming places can become contaminated with feces after
someone has an accident in the pool or if they do not wash themselves properly before entering the pool.
According to the CDC, "Chlorine and other disinfectants don't kill germs instantly. That's why it's important for
swimmers to protect themselves by not swallowing the water they swim in and to protect others by keeping feces
and germs out of the pool by taking a pre-swim shower and not swimming when ill with diarrhea." If you have had
diarrhea within the past 14 days, you should not swim.
To read more about the CDC study and ways you can avoid getting a waterborne illness,
click here. You can
also visit the CDC's Healthy Swimming webpage for more information about how to keep you and your family safe this summer.
New Fact Sheet on Cryptosporidium
With the summer heat, many people will be going to a swimming pool to cool off. Did you know that you
could be at risk of contracting cryptosporidiosis when you go swimming? Check out our new fact sheet about
Cryptosporidium to learn how to prevent this waterborne disease.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact Amanda Gaspard, Health Education Specialist,
at 800-442-2283 or Amanda.Gaspard@dph.sbcounty.gov.