In Central Florida, pools outnumber alligators. When I fly back home to Orlando after a trip out of town, I’m struck by the number of pools dotting the landscape below as the plane descends over the city. So many pools, so many safety hazards.
Pools and Liability
Owning a pool is one of the most significant liabilities you’ll take on in your lifetime. If you have children, teaching them water safety at an early age is essential, both to protect them when they’re near your pool and to keep them safe when they’re near other pools. Knowing how the law relates to pools and liability is my job, but this issue strikes a personal chord as well.
According to the Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act (and most of those pools over–90%–were built before the Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act) all residential pools built after October 1, 2000 must meet specific requirements. In order for a new home to pass final inspection:
A residential swimming pool must meet at least one of the following requirements relating to pool safety features:
• The pool must be isolated from access to a home by an enclosure that meets the pool barrier requirements of s. 515.29;
• The pool must be equipped with an approved safety pool cover;
• All doors and windows providing direct access from the home to the pool must be equipped with an exit alarm that has a minimum sound pressure rating of 85 dB A at 10 feet; or
• All doors providing direct access from the home to the pool must be equipped with a self-closing, self-latching device with a release mechanism placed no lower than 54 inches above the floor.
The law also requires the following for all pools:
• The barrier surrounding the pool must be at least 4 feet high on the outside.
• The barrier may not have any gaps or openings that could allow a young child to wiggle through.
• The pool fencing gate must open outwardly away from the pool and be self-locking.
• The barrier cannot be placed close enough to a permanent item (such as a wall or a deck) that a child could use to climb up on and scale the barrier.
Above-ground pools must be at least 4 feet high to comply with these regulations, with a retractable or removable ladder.
According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, a “successful pool barrier prevents a child from getting OVER, UNDER, or THROUGH and keeps the child from gaining access to the pool except when supervising adults are present.” In other words, no fence will ever replace the watchful eye of an adult, but just in case, it serves as an additional safeguard for pool safety.
Failure to comply with this Florida law can result in a misdemeanor or far worse, which is a child drowning in your backyard.
Survival Swim Lessons
One of my favorite pictures (I tuck it away in my desk drawer and look at it every so often) is of my oldest son when he was taking survival swim lessons nine years ago. Seeing his excitement and confidence in the water at such a young age reminds me of that time when each new challenge was a milestone.
It’s a major commitment to take your child to the YMCA or another similar program five days a week, for weeks on end. But the result—a child that has the skills to save himself if he accidentally falls into the water—is well worth it. If you’re avoiding swim lessons for your baby or toddler, there are some statistics you need to know:
Facts About Drowning
- A minimum of 55 children in the U.S. reach the water unsupervised and end up in a potential drowning situation each day.
- 63% of those who drown are under the age of 4.
- 2 minutes after being submerged, a child loses consciousness. Brain damage occurs after another two to four minutes of being submerged.
- If your child doesn’t have survival swimming skills, they’re vulnerable to drowning if unsupervised for even a moment (when a parent takes a phone call, texts, or walks inside to use the bathroom or get a snack).
- There are over 800 documented cases of children saving themselves using their Safe StartSelf-Rescue skills (rolling onto their backs and floating unassisted).
Jeff Badgley is a Member of the Board of Directors at the Roper YMCA. He is deeply invested in supporting programs like Safe Start that benefit Central Florida families. Learn more about the YMCA’s Safe Start Survival Swimming Lessons by clicking here.
Watch this enlightening video for a reminder about how enticing pools are for young children, how quickly they can find themselves submerged in a pool, and why knowing how to stay afloat is a game-changer:
Read more about keeping your children safe here.