We’re a state of swimmers: splashing in our oceans, lakes, and pools is a cherished Florida pastime. Our state values swimming education, encouraging children to learn water survival skills at a young age through programs like YMCA’s Safe Start. And yet despite these precautions, annually in Florida “enough children to fill three or four preschool classrooms drown and do not live to see their fifth birthday.” Here in Florida we have the highest drowning death rate in the nation for children under 5. Over 60% of those drownings occur in residential swimming pools. And we have more than 1 million residential pools in our state.
Sure, pool time can be a great way to cool off, and great family fun time. But it can also turn tragic almost in an instant. We have an obligation to protect our youngest residents, regardless whether they have yet to learn how to swim. In the time it takes for you to run inside to grab a phone call, check on dinner or put a load of laundry into the dryer, a child could slip into the pool and be gone forever.
According to WaterSmartFl. com, there should be three layers of protection:
1. Supervision. This is the most crucial layer of protection. An adult should be actively supervising children in the pool, or in the backyard at all times. This means no running inside for even a moment. Never assume—never—that the kids will be okay for even a moment. Keep in mind that an unsupervised child can slip under the water in less than a second; and while you may only be gone for a moment, and the child may not drown, even a few short minutes without oxygen can lead to brain damage.
2. Barriers. These include physical barriers like a pool fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate, but also things such as child proof locks on doors. There are also pool alarms along with a pool cover. Just make sure that a pool cover is one that it professionally installed; a simple ‘do-it-yourself’ canvas cover can in fact be a drowning hazard and trap a child in the water.
3. Emergency preparedness. A lack of oxygen can cause brain damage in a short amount of time. There is only a small amount of time when proper resuscitation can help. As a parent it’s important you learn CPR. CPR isn’t hard to learn and could make a difference between life and death.
There are other common-sense tips when it comes to pool safety. For example, you shouldn’t think swimming toys area substitute for proper lifesaving aids. A set of ‘floaties’ or a tube can’t substitute for your eyes. These are toys after all and can’t be depended on. Always be prepared for emergencies; have the proper floatation device nearby the pool and know how to use it. Avoid alcohol. Those two beers can slow down your reaction time, throw off your coordination and hinder you from recognizing that someone is drowning.
Be aware of, and prevent, horseplay. Remember those pool days from your own childhood when your parents or the lifeguard told to quit running or roughhousing in the water doing things like pushing someone else underwater? Well, there were reasons for that, and those still apply to this day, and your own children. Slippery surfaces can lead to severe injuries, and rough play can lead to disaster.
Pool safety doesn’t just apply to parents of young children. Even if you don’t have children at your home, heed this message: if your house has a swimming pool, you must have a secure barrier around it to prevent a child from drowning. That’s the law in Florida, and failure to meet the requirements could lead to tragedy and open the homeowner up to a lawsuit.
According to the Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act (and most 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. Orlando swimming pool accident attorney Jeff Badgley implores you: The aesthetics of your pool are not worth a tragic accident. Learn more about water safety for children at WaterproofFL, and please make sure your pool is safe for all neighborhood children.