We were fortunate to grow up with swimming pools and truly appreciate how much fun they can be, especially on a hot summer day. Here’s a picture of Mitch being tossed by his dad way back in the day. To this day, Mitch still shows the same level of enthusiasm on the first day of trial :-)
Despite the found memories of swimming and staying cool in the summer, we think it’s important for our clients to know that swimming pools can be very dangerous and care must be taken to avoid injury and drowning. The tragic cases we’ve helped families with over the past 3 decades compelled us to write and share this post.
Most people are not aware of the fact that drownings happen quickly, are silent, and can happen to anyone. We’ve represented very good and responsible Orange County families who have tragically lost loved ones to drownings in a backyard pool, Jacuzzi, or public lake. Without exception, they never saw the tragic drowning coming. Hopefully this information will help avoid another tragic loss from taking place.
Before we share specific safety tips, we want to share a particular case we handled because a drowning was the last thing anyone would have ever expected to happen. The case involved a family who lost their wonderful 18 year old young son and brother. He was in excellent shape, a high school track start, and in the prime of his life.
In fact, this young man was so talented that he was on his way to college on a full track scholarship. At the time of his death, the victim was swimming with friends and with lifeguards present. This particular loss raised our awareness of just how quickly a drowning can take place. Drowning truly is a silent death.
Submersion incidents involving children usually happen in familiar surroundings. Statistics show that sixty-five percent of the incidents happen in a pool owned by the child’s family and 33 percent of the incidents happen in a pool owned by friends or relatives.
Here are several facts provided by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in a comprehensive study of drowning and submersion incidents. The study involves children under 5 years of age in Arizona, California, and Florida.
Seventy-five percent of the submersion victims studied by CPSC were between 1 and 3 years old; 65 percent of this group were boys. It is noted that toddlers, in particular, often do something unexpected because their capabilities change daily.
At the time of the incidents, most victims were being supervised by one or both parents. Forty-six percent of the victims were last seen in the house; 23 percent were last seen in the yard or on the porch or patio; and 31 percent were in or around the pool before the accident. In all, 69 percent of the children were not expected to be at or in the pool, yet they were found in the water.
Submersion incidents involving children usually happen in familiar surroundings. Sixty-five percent of the incidents happened in a pool owned by the child’s family and 33 percent of the incidents happened in a pool owned by friends or relatives.
Pool submersions involving children happen quickly. A child can drown in the time it takes to answer a phone. Seventy-seven percent of the victims had been missing from sight for 5 minutes or less.
Survival depends on rescuing the child quickly and restarting the breathing process, even while the child is still in the water. Seconds count in preventing death or brain damage.
Child drowning is a silent death. There’s no splashing to alert anyone that the child is in trouble.
Here are steps you can take to avoid a swimming tragedy…
Watch All Swimmers– Keep a close lookout while EVERYONE swims.
Use Barriers– Please note that the following barrier recommendations are the result of identifying key parameters that typically contribute to child drowning in backyard pools. These recommendations are the minimum steps you can take to make your home a safe place for your child. Barriers are not childproof, but they provide layers of protection for a child who strays from supervision. Barriers can give parents additional time to locate a child before the unexpected becomes a reality. Barriers include a fence or wall, door alarms for the house, and a power safety cover over the pool. Barriers also may be used to protect children from accessing hot tubs and spas. Use the following recommendations as a guide.
Fences and Gates– Install a fence or other barrier, such as a wall, completely around the pool. If the house is part of the barrier, the doors leading from the house to the pool should be protected with an alarm or the pool should have a power safety cover. Alarm and cover details are below.
The fence or other barrier should be at least 4 feet high. It should have no foot or handholds that could help a young child to climb it. Vertical fence slats should be less than 4 inches apart to prevent a child from squeezing through.
Use this as a guide when the release mechanism is located less than 54 inches from the bottom of the gate. If horizontal members are equal to or more than 45 inches apart, vertical spacing shall not exceed 4 inches. If the fence is chain link, then no part of the diamond-shaped opening should be larger than 1-3/4 inches. Fence gates should be self-closing and self-latching. The gate should be well maintained to close and latch easily. The latch should be out of a child’s reach.
When the release mechanism of the self-latching device is less than 54 inches from the bottom of the gate, the release mechanism for the gate should be at least 3 inches below the top of the gate on the side facing the pool. Placing the release mechanism at this height prevents a young child from reaching over the top of a gate and releasing the latch. Also, the gate and barrier should have no opening greater than 1/2 inch within 18 inches of the latch release mechanism. This prevents a young child from reaching through the gate and releasing the latch.
There are a wide variety of fencing construction materials available to compliment your house and pool surroundings. Your local fence company or pool enclosure company can provide you with information and assist you in making a selection.
The weak link in the strongest and highest fence is a gate that fails to close and latch completely. For a gate to close completely every time, it must be in proper working order.
Door Alarms– If the house forms one side of the barrier, then doors leading from the house to the pool should be protected with alarms that produce an audible sound when a door is unexpectedly opened. Install an alarm that can be temporarily turned off by an adult for a single opening of the door by using a keypad or switch that is out of a child’s reach.
Battery and electrically powered alarms are available. The key pad switch can be used by adults who wish to pass through the door without setting off the alarm. It should be placed high on all doors leading from the house to the pool. Affordable and easily installed alarms are available. An alarm signal immediately tells a parent that a door has been opened.
Power Safety Covers– Power safety covers over the pool may be used as an alternative to door alarms. A power safety cover should meet the requirements of the ASTM pool cover standard which addresses labeling requirements and performance. ASTM requires that a cover withstand the weight of two adults and a child to allow a rescue should an individual fall onto the cover. The standard also requires quick removal of water from the cover. A young child can drown in just inches of water.
A power safety cover is a motor powered barrier that can be placed over the water area. Motor-driven covers easily open and close over the pool. When the power safety cover is properly in place over the pool, it provides a high level of safety for children under 5 years old by inhibiting their access to the water.
Above Ground Pools– Steps and ladders leading from the ground to the pool should be secured and locked, or removed when the pool is not in use.
More Rules for Pools…
Instruct babysitters about potential pool hazards to young children and about the use of protective devices, such as door alarms and latches. Emphasize the need for constant supervision.
Never leave a child unsupervised near a pool. During social gatherings at or near a pool, appoint a “designated watcher” to protect young children from pool accidents. Adults may take turns being the “watcher.” When adults become preoccupied, children are at risk.
If a child is missing, check the pool first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability. Go to the edge of the pool and scan the entire pool, bottom and surface, as well as the pool area.
Do not allow a young child in the pool without an adult.
Do not consider young children to be drown proof because they have had swimming lessons. Children must be watched closely while swimming.
Do not use flotation devices as a substitute for supervision.
Learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Babysitters and other caretakers, such as grandparents and older siblings, should also know CPR.
Keep rescue equipment by the pool. Be sure a telephone is poolside with emergency numbers posted nearby.
Remove toys from in and around the pool when it is not in use. Toys can attract young children to the pool.
Never prop open the gate to a pool barrier.
The nationally recognized firm of Jackson & Wilson, has been helping victims of personal injury and wrongful death since 1986. Both Lisa and Mitch have received the top “AV” rating for ability and ethics by Martindale-Hubbell and their firm is listed in the prestigious Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers. They are also proud to be multiple time members of the Million Dollar Advocates Club with membership limited to only those lawyers who have achieved a settlement or verdict of $1,000,000 or more.