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Drowning in Liability: Residential Swimming Pool Safety

According to the Florida Department of Health, drowning is the leading cause of death in Florida among children between ages one and four. Thus, you can imagine my dismay when I read about two children who recently died as a a result of drowning in a residential pool. One of the drownings happened in Bay County. WJHG reports 911 dispatchers received a call from a mother in the north end of the county (Southport area) who said she could not find her two-year-old son on Monday morning. Just before help arriving, however, one of the deputies learned that the child had been found in the pool. Family, friends and the deputy performed CPR until paramedics arrived. They then pronounced the child dead at the scene.  Sheriff's deputies have not yet released the name of the boy or the family.

Then in Fort Pierce, a 5 year old boy drowned in a neighbor's pool several days ago. According to the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office, the 5 year-old wandered away from a church playground next to his home and went to the neighbor's pool Friday afternoon. Someone called 911 when the boy was found unconscious at the bottom of the pool. A sheriff's deputy and a Fort Pierce police officer pulled the boy from the water and began CPR. The child was in about three feet of water. Paramedics attempted to revive the boy but he was declared dead at a hospital. No further details were available. It is unclear who was watching the boy when he wandered away.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to both families who lost their child to a drowning.

The incidents made me wonder what the responsibility of a homeowner has when they have a pool and whether or not there are laws here in Florida to try to avoid these tragic accidents.

In an attempt to reduce the number of child drownings related to private pools, the Florida State Legislature passed the Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act in 2009. According to the law, residential pool barriers must: (a) Be at least 4 feet high on the outside; (b) Not have any gaps, openings, indentations, protrusions, or other components that could allow a young child to penetrate the barrier; (c) be situated around the perimeter of the pool and be separate from any enclosure used to surround the yard (unless the yard enclosure meets the pool barrier requirements described here); (d) Be located far enough away from the water's edge (at least 20 inches); ( e ) Not be located so that a permanent structure may be used to climb the barrier; and (f)Use gates (if any) that open away from the pool, are self-closing, and have a self-latching lock whose release mechanism is located on the pool side of the gate and cannot be reached by a young child through an opening in the fence.

Read the law in depth here: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0500-0599/0515/0515.html

What you can do to try to avoid either of these tragic scenarios:

■ Clear toys out of the pool so children are not tempted by them.

■ Limit alcoholic beverages around the pool. The Centers for Disease Control says alcohol use is involved in up to half of adolescent and adult deaths associated with water recreation.

■ Be sure life saving devices are nearby and in good condition.

■ Never rely exclusively on flotation devices or posted warning signs. They won't deter lawyers.

■ Keep children away from pool filters and other mechanical devices that may injure them. In case of emergency, know how to shut off these devices and clearly post the information.

■ Find out if those using your pool know how to swim. Don't let anyone swim alone.

■ Check the pool regularly for glass bottles, toys or other potential accident hazards. Keep electrical devices away from pools or wet surfaces.

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