PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – On a hot day, nothing beats the cool water of a municipal or county swimming pool.

But a policy at many out-of-state pools is heating up debate as it’s introduced at local pools — life jackets for young children.

“We believe it is the safest way to go about protecting small children in a pool,” Jeff Ellis told KDKA’s Jon Delano on Thursday.

Florida-based Jeff Ellis & Associates manages many public and privately-owned pools around the country, including the Brentwood, Baldwin and Dormont pools here in Pittsburgh.

The rule at the Dormont pool is simple.

If your child is under 52 inches tall and wants to use the slides or jump off the deep end, you must be with them in the water — or, in the alternative, the child must wear a life jacket.

“Parents have a choice,” says Ellis, “either to use the life jackets and let the children roam freely or to be within arm’s reach of the child while they’re in the water.”

“I do think it’s a good rule,” says Ashley Donnelly of Dormont, “for safety reasons, especially if they’re not with an adult.”

But not everyone agrees.

Allegheny County parks director Andy Baechle says life jackets are prohibited at county pools except for persons with disabilities.

“We just feel that it provides a false sense of security, that maybe a parent doesn’t feel they have to watch their kid as close because if they can’t swim they’re in a life jacket,” says Baechle.

“We just feel for safety reasons — I know that sounds backwards — but for safety reasons we don’t feel that life jackets are the safest way to go.”

At Pittsburgh city pools, life jackets are discouraged, especially for the deep end of the pool.

“We really require for our kids to be in the deep end and for our adults as well that they know how to swim and are capable of passing our swim test,” notes Jim Griffin, Citiparks director.

Ellis rejects any claim that life jackets are unsafe.

“It’s a real sense of protection because it keeps everyone’s head above the water.”

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