Florida’s nice weather and sunny days makes it an ideal location for families to own a private pool, and because of this Florida also has one of the highest rates of childhood drowning accidents in the country. When ranked nationally, it has the highest rate of drownings of people under the age of five years old (7.54 per 100,000 children), and the second highest fatality rate of children under the age of 15 (2.54 per 100,000). Additionally, males have a significantly higher risk of drowning than females. Sadly, with proper supervision and safety features the vast majority of these deaths would have been preventable.
Private Swimming Pool Regulations
Safety standards for private pools in Florida are controlled by the Preston de Ibern/McKenzie Merriam Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act (Florida Statutes Title XXXIII, Chapter 515). This Act requires one or more safety features to be installed prior to the issuance of a certificate of completion for a new residential pool, be present on pools built after October 1, 2000, and makes failure to do so a misdemeanor. These features include:
- A surrounding fence that meets Florida pool barrier requirements listed in Florida Statutes § 525.29;
- An approved pool safety cover;
- All doors and windows providing access to the pool from the house be equipped with an exit alarm; and
- All doors providing access to the pool from the house be equipped with a self-closing, self-latching mechanism.
The Act has a number of exemptions, however, and does not apply to public swimming pools, portable spas with safety covers, and what are commonly known as “kiddie pools”, among other things. Nor does it apply to agricultural water holding structures like stock tanks or ponds, or irrigation canals and similar structures.
Pool Safety Suggestions
The Florida Department of Health has established a department specifically for the purposes of educating the public about pool safety and swimming pool regulations, WaterproofFL. Among their suggestions is a three layer system of pool safety:
- Layer 1: Supervision—never allow your children to play in a swimming pool unsupervised. A particularly hazardous time is at backyard parties, because there tends to be the assumption among participants that “somebody else” is supervising the children in the pool. During events always have an adult specifically assigned to be the pool supervision at all times.
- Layer 2: Barriers—make sure that your swimming pool has an adequate physical barrier to prevent children from being able to access it without an adult. Things like pools can prove to be fascinating to young children, who will seek them out to satisfy their curiosity: this is what is referred to in legal theory as an “attractive nuisance”.
- Layer 3: Emergency Preparedness—it takes a very short amount of time for a child to drown, and there is an even shorter window between when someone stops breathing and the onset of permanent brain damage. If you own a pool, learn CPR and make sure that you know what to do in an emergency: thinking about what to do ahead of time will prevent you from acting indecisively in a crisis.
Local Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help
Pools are a lot of fun, but they can be dangerous. And unfortunately, just because you did everything right doesn’t mean that your neighbors have. If your child has been injured because of someone’s negligent acts involving a private swimming pool, contact an experienced Florida personal injury attorney to discuss your situation and what your options may be.