by Myles McMorrow, March 25, 2009
As a father of an active toddler, swimming pool safety is always on my mind these days. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (www.cpsc.gov) did a study on drowning in the USA .The results revealed that 75% of submersion victims were 1-3 years old, 65% of whom were boys.
Accordingly, toddlers were more at risk because of their ever-changing capabilities and attempts at autonomy particular to their age group. Interestingly, swimming pool laws were somehow being followed as most victims were being supervised by one or more parent at the time of the accident.
Moreover, these children were not expected to be near the pool 69% of the time and yet they were discovered in the water. Most of these submersion accidents happened in a familiar place—in swimming pools owned by the family (65%) and in pools owned by a relative or a friend (33%).
One finding reinforces how quickly submersion accidents can happen. It was said that a child can drown in the time it takes to read 3 sentences and that these children had been missing out of sight for merely 5 short minutes or less. The child’s survival solely depends on prompt rescue and resumption of breathing since a precious second lost could lead to damaging the brain or worse, death. The CPSC research asks parents and pool owners to observe swimming pool laws, especially since child drowning is a silent and fast death where there are no signals.
One of the causes of drowning getting the most attention these days is the filter and pump system. This is where the pump suction at the floor drain can hold a person under water with the force of over 400 pounds. In the news frequently since June 15, 2002, when, at a pool party in Fairfax, Virginia, Virginia Graeme Baker, 7-year-old granddaughter of Secretary of State James Baker was entrapped in a spa where she passed away. She was held under water by the suction force of the drain, requiring 3 adults to pull her off, prompting one of the most rigorous pool laws ever set on a national level.
The Act signed by President George W. Bush on Dec. 19, 2007, went into effect Dec. 19 of 2008. It is called the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. This is a federal law which mandates that all commercial pools and swim clubs to have new drain covers or SVRS * installed in all pools to meet the new code to prevent bodily injury and/or death. All main drain covers and SVRS (suction vacuum release system) must meet or exceed the ASME/ANSI A112.19.8-2007 National Standards and ASTM G154 for UV Testing. This is stamped on all compliant main drain covers and the law is regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission as well by state and local pool inspectors.
Within the years this bill took to pass into law, many states and counties have also passed many laws designated to protect people around swimming pools. These vary from state to state and county to county so check with your local building inspector’s office. In many cases building permits will not be issued until you are in compliance with the laws.
One of the most common pool safety law is a pool fence law that requires a barrier of a certain height to enclose your pool to isolate it from the neighborhood. The fence gate must be self closing and self latching gate, preferably with a padlock! This is to make it difficult for a wandering child to gain access to your pool.
- Florida has a law that every door and window facing the pool from the house must have a separate alarm that sounds out a 110 DB siren when opened.
- New York every pool in the state must have an approved pool alarm installed on them. This approved devises will sound an alarm at the pool and also inside the house, when an object weighting more than 8 lbs is dropped into the pool.
- In Arizona, every pool must have a 5 foot fence around it with a self closing gate that swings away from the pool.
- In California, all pool construction,including renovations, will have to include two drowning-prevention devices, as well as dual main drains and anti-entrapment drain covers. Current law mandates one barrier on new pools, and does not address existing vessels.
Lobbying has become a big business in the pool industry with about 30 trade groups and countless safety groups pushing for or fighting laws on a state by state or national level. Advocacy groups and foundations have grown from tragedy to help shape new laws. I have worked in the industry for over 15 years and seen countless lives lost and many law suits filed over injuries or deaths.
As a pool owner it is up to you to look into all the codes and laws in your area to insure that you comply. The state may not contact you of these laws passing and insurance companies will not cover your policy if you do not comply with the laws in your town. I would recommend contacting your local health department or local zoning and permit administration once a year to ensure your pool meets all local codes and ordinances. Of course, stay tuned here for recent updates.
For general pool safety info to make your pool safe visit http://www.poolcenter.com/safety.htm