Swimming Pool Drowning Prevention
With Summer finally here, families are bound to seek refuge from the heat in pools or at our fantastic beaches. However, there is a threat more menacing than the piercing heat and Florida sunshine. According to the CDC, “from 2005-2014, there was an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the United States — about ten deaths per day. An additional 332 people died each year from drowning in boating-related incidents… [and] about one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger.” Drownings can occur anywhere, at any age, for many different reasons. Some of the most common causes of drowning for children include lack of supervision and safety measures in swimming areas. Suppose you send your child to swim at a neighbor’s house and don’t pack their inflatable armbands because there will be an adult in or around the pool area. What happens when the adult steps away to use the bathroom, goes in to get their phone or grab some towels, etc.? What about when you and your child are at a party at a house that has a pool? What happens when you take your eyes off the child for what you swear could have been no longer than a minute or you grab him or her a plate of food or another drink or whatever else, and suddenly nobodies paying attention for just a short period of time? What many fail to realize is that a situation can go bad in a very short time period. A matter of seconds that you have redirected your attention could possibly result in horrible consequences or even a fatality.
After a tragedy or near-tragedy occurs, there are actions you may be able to take to get justice for negligence – whether that be poor supervision, faulty equipment, or dangerous situations present in the swimming area. Florida Statute 515 states that, “all new residential swimming pools, spas, and hot tubs must be equipped with at least one pool safety feature as specified in this chapter...” These features include an approved safety pool cover, exit alarms that have a minimum sound pressure rating of 85 dB A at 10 feet, doors with a self-closing, self-latching device with a release mechanism placed no lower than 54 inches above the floor or a swimming pool alarm that, when placed in a pool, sounds an alarm upon detection of an accidental or unauthorized entrance into the water. In situations that result in a drowning or near-drowning on personal property where none of these measures are present, a representative of the drowned party may be able to file for compensation. In alternate situations, where a person trespasses on an individual’s personal property and becomes involved in an accident, you may be able to file for negligence under the attractive nuisance doctrine. A well-known tort principle called “Attractive Nuisance” is learned by every first year law student and is defined by Cornell Law, as follows: “a doctrine in tort law under which a landowner may be liable for injuries to children who trespass on land if the injury results from a hazardous object or condition on the land that is likely to attract children who are unable to appreciate the risk posed by the object or condition.” A swimming pool certainly attracts the attention of small children and may lure the child to fall into the water not knowing the danger. Pools are required to have barriers or fences that protect and prevent children from being attracted into the pool. In the instance of drowning or an accident on public property, such as certain public beaches, water parks, and public pools, you may be eligible for compensation for a lack of security fence or lack of supervision in and around the water. Don’t forget children can escape from the house without you knowing and make their way to the pool by opening a door or even going out a doggy door. Whenever small children are around a house or business with a pool, the purchase of high door locks should be installed to prevent children from getting outside and wandering into the pool.
Some parents are lead into believing that their children are being properly supervised by lifeguards around the swimming pool or swimming area. This can give a false sense of security if the lifeguard is distracted or not doing his or her job in watching children swim. In busy over-crowed pools, more than one person supervising may be necessary to oversee your child’s safety. To be safe, children should never be left in a swimming pool without adult supervision assigned to keep a watchful eye on the swimmer or children around the pool.
It is important to remember that water safety starts at an individual level. The CDC offers many suggestions for how to keep children and your family safe in and around the water. You can promote drowning prevention in your home by equipping yourself and your family with both swimming and CPR skills. The CDC reported that, “taking part in formal swimming lessons reduces the risk of drowning among children aged 1 to 4 years. [Additionally], CPR performed by bystanders has been shown to save lives and improve outcomes in drowning victims. The more quickly CPR is started, the better the chance of improved outcomes.” Weak swimmers should consider using life jackets to reduce their risk of injury or drowning. It is also important to secure your personal pool in accordance with Florida statues to prevent accidents in your home. For more information about how to prevent drownings at home, in our natural waters, and at public recreational spaces, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/water-safety/waterinjuries-factsheet.html.