By Sherri Butterfield
WRITER AND EDITOR
If you are constructing a swimming pool or spa at a private single-family home, a new state law requires that you install at least two approved drowning-prevention safety features and that these features be inspected to determine that they meet code requirements.
Drowning is suffocation by submersion. It can occur in as little as twenty seconds and will occur within three minutes. According to the Orange County Fire Authority, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death among children five years old and younger in Orange County.
Children this age are attracted to water. They associate it with bath time and play, and do not understand how dangerous it can be. They crawl or toddle toward the pool, tumble or wade in, slip beneath the water’s surface, and drown without a sound.
Most drownings of young children occur in home swimming pools, usually because a child gains access to the pool when no one is looking or because the adults who are supposed to be watching the pool are distracted for a short time and take their eyes off the water.
To prevent tragedies of this kind, last year the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 442 (Newman). Known as the Pool Safety Act, this legislation amended the California Health and Safety Code to provide that, when a building permit is issued for construction of a new swimming pool or spa at a private single-family home, the pool or spa must be equipped with at least two of the following seven drowning-prevention safety features:
- An enclosure that isolates the pool or spa from the home.
- Removable mesh fencing in conjunction with a self-latching, self-closing gate that can accommodate a key-lockable device.
- An approved safety pool cover.
- Exit alarms on the home’s doors that provide direct access to the pool or spa.
- A self-closing, self-latching device with a release mechanism placed at least fifty-four inches above the floor on the door of the home that provides direct access to the pool or spa.
- An alarm placed in the pool or spa that will sound upon detection of accidental or unauthorized entry.
- Other means of protection if determined to be equal to or greater than what is afforded by these six safety features.
Before final approval is given, a building official must inspect the pool or spa to determine that the required safety features are in place and that they meet code requirements. In addition, Items 2 and 6 must meet American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) Specifications.
How to Make Your Swimming Season Safer
According to the Orange County Fire Authority, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death among children five years old and younger in Orange County, and adults fifty years old and older account for more than 50 percent of the drownings each year.
The most common reason children drown is a lapse in active adult supervision. Adults drown because they swim alone, and no one is around to help them if they experience a severe muscle cramp, are injured, suffer a seizure, or otherwise become incapacitated.
Drowning is a preventable tragedy. Listed below are seven things you can do to make your swimming season safer.
- Prepare yourself. Learn to swim. Brush up on rescue and lifesaving techniques—including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CRP).
- Prepare your pool. Mount a lifesaving ring, a shepherd’s hook, and a CPR sign near your pool. And keep a working phone close by.
- Install at least two safety devices. For example, install an enclosure that isolates the pool from your home and place exit alarms on all doors that provide direct access to the pool. And just for good measure, place in the pool a motion-sensing alarm that will sound in the event of accidental or unauthorized entry.
- Teach children to swim. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the likelihood of a childhood drowning death by 88 percent.
- Supervise the pool when it is in use. Do not rely on either swimming lessons or flotation devices to make any child “water safe.” Constant supervision of children around water is crucial, and a supervising adult should always remain within arm’s reach of any very young child who is in water.
- Never swim alone. Even if you are a very good swimmer, always swim with a companion who can provide help if you need it.
- Avoid mixing prescription medications, alcohol, and water. In far too many instances, this combination has proven to be fatal.
Drowning-Prevention Door Hanger Project
Orange County REALTORS® is working with the Orange County Fire Authority to develop door hangers that will carry a drowningprevention message on one side and announce the new rules for pools on the other.
The Orange County Drowning Prevention Task Force has expressed interest in the project, and the Jasper Ray Foundation has indicated a willingness to pay for the printing costs.
These door hangers would include space in which REALTORS® could add contact information, and their public safety message would make them ideal farming materials.
The approach will most likely be to announce the availability of the door hangers and invite REALTORS® to order the number they need for their farms.
Using a similar approach last year Orange county REALTORS® distributed some 8,300 door hangers with a water conservation message.
A Note About the Jasper Ray Foundation: Tragically, Jasper Ray St. Clair drowned in 2014 while in the care of a babysitter. She had taken him to her family home where there was an ungated pool, and he entered the water unnoticed and drowned. His parents started the foundation as a way of honoring his memory and of preventing other parents from experiencing the same tragedy.