By Marcelle Dibrell
In mid-July of this year, NBC-KDFW aired an investigative report entitled “Texas Legislature Ignore Recommendations to Prevent Childhood Drowning.”
The report centered around the fact that, while local counties and cities in Texas may have regulations in place concerning fences, enclosures, and alarms around residential swimming pools and spas, there is no Texas state law requiring some level of protection on pools. It was further noted that other pool-popular states such as Arizona, California, and Florida do have state laws in effect.
Meanwhile, 41 children in Texas have died this year of drowning; and half of these drownings occurred in residential pools.
This galvanizing report resonates with most Americans because of their desire to protect their children from accidental death by drowning.
The issue, however, is alittle more complicated.
The report mentioned that over the years, state-wide bills requiring fencing, enclosures, and alarms for residential pools in Texas haven’t received enough support to pass.
In the report, the position of the Aquatic Professionals Education Council (APEC) was quoted. “APEC supports consumer choice. Some consumers may desire four-sided fencing, others may not.”
Fort Worth Senator Wendy Davis was interviewed about her proposed bill (SB 582) requiring pool alarms and exit alarms for certain residential homes with new or renovated pools and spas. The bill was considered in April, but come May, the bill fizzled, and was not placed on the intent calendar again.
What the report failed to explain is that the proposal would place the responsibility of providing pool and spa alarms on the builder of the pool or spa. Noncompliance with the bill’s requirement would result in fines to the builder as large as $5,000 per transgression.
In response to that particular proposal, APEC’s full position is:
“APEC advocates safety for all pool & spa owners but does not believe that pool builders should be saddled with the responsibility of providing each Texan, who chooses to build or remodel a pool or spa with the required alarm system under SB 582.
Customers should be free to choose what type of alarm system they want for their family’s pool and spa. Attaching a fine or levying penalties on builders will only increase serve to increase costs for pool builders and consumers alike.”
At this point, however, some will ask: But what about the moral responsibility we have to our children?
The National Drowning Prevention Alliance advocates “layers of protection” around a swimming pool or spa. These layers begin with vigilant supervision, but also include physical barriers such as fences, pool covers, and alarms.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that these things can cut the risk of drowning by more than 50 percent.
On the other hand, The Texas Conservative Coalition is quoted as saying, “New statewide swimming pool regulations would be an ineffective and unnecessary substitute for responsible supervision of children around a pool”.
Essentially, the issue comes down to whether we need a law in place for adults to provide the safest possible pool environment for children.
Data to support either side is not easy to find, nor once found, is it easy to interpret.
For example, while the state of Florida does have regulations in place regard-ing pool enclosures and alarms on residential pools, in 2012, they led the nation in pool and spa drownings for children younger than 15, according to USA Swimming.
In addition, Florida ranks among the highest in terms of the number of swimming pools per household in the country.
Meanwhile, Arizona pool enclosure state laws are among the strictest in the nation. Yet in 2011, Arizona reported 26 child (under the the age of 18) deaths due to drowning in a swimming pool or spa, according to the Nineteenth Annual Report of the Arizona Child Fatality Review Program.
Also in 2011, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services reported 48 child deaths due to drowning in a swimming pool.
Relative to the child population of each state, Arizona had a higher incidence of childhood drowning.
We have always maintained that absolutely nothing takes the place of constant, and vigilant supervision of children around pools and spas.
But whether laws requiring enclosures or alarms actually reduce child deaths by drowning, may be up for debate.
Common sense dictates that stricter security practices lead to a safer environment.
We invite our readers to respond to this highly debated subject. We wish to publish the opinions of the 10,000 people who read this paper and service pools for a living. Send your letter to firstname.lastname@example.org.