One of the countless benefits of living in Arizona is the many days of clear skies and sunshine. Phoenix ranks fourth in the United States for annual days of sunshine, boasting 211 days of sunshine a year (Yuma, Arizona ranks number one). With the amount of sunny days, it’s no wonder why the indoor-outdoor lifestyle is so common to Phoenicians. Residents are accustomed to flip-flops year-round, daily applications of sunscreen, collections of sunglasses and swimming pools.
In most states, a swimming pool is a luxury, however, in Phoenix it is staple. In fact, Phoenix ranks number one in the United States in residential pool ownership. Although swimming pools are a great source of entertainment and exercise, it is important for both parents and children to be educated about water safety and pool requirements in order to avoid unnecessary tragedy.
Two new reports from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (“USCPSC”) cited that 390 children drown each year in the United States, with the majority of this number occurring in the summer. Inez Tenenbaum, chairman of the USCPSC, puts that number into perspective explaining, “We are talking about 15 preschool classes lost in a pool or spa every year.”
In 2016 in Arizona alone, there were 157 water related incidents, 90 of which involved toddlers and infants, resulting in 16 deaths. In 2017 there have already been 44 deaths. Subsequently, drowning is the leading cause of death in 1-4 year olds in Arizona.
Some of the common causes of drowning include:
- Lack of swimming ability
- No barriers surrounding the pool
- Parents lack of supervision in the bathtub
- Panic when in the water
- Boating accidents
- Concussion, heart attack or seizure while in the water
- Alcohol use
- Nonuse of lifejackets
Lori Schmidt, president of the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona, says the “ABCs” of preventing drowning remain the first and best line of defense when working at eliminating child drowning tragedies. Schmidt states, “The No. 1 thing people need to understand is we can prevent drowning so we need to make sure we take those steps to lower our chances. Drowning prevention is a three-pronged approach with the key being adult supervision.” The three prongs (ABC) include: adult supervision, barriers to water access and life vests and coast guard approved CPR classes for adults.
Additional ways to prevent drowning include:
- Educating your child about pool safety, including, but not limited to: where they can swim, what activities are appropriate, if they may dive into a pool, what to do if they are struggling in any way, where the pool ladders or steps are located, what to do if another child is struggling in a pool and how to deal with pool or spa drains.
- Instructing your children on what drowning means.
- Installing pool barriers (it is the law). It is not enough to lock the house doors, children of all ages can think of crafty ways to open a locked door, go through a window or out a doggy door.
- Parents must educate themselves, including CPR, proper supervision, and correct installation of pool drains and covers.
- Appreciating and knowing the environment, including water depth, water current and terrain.
- Enrolling your child in swimming lessons, children are able to begin swimming as young as six months of age. Both Hubbard Family Swim School and Aqua-Tots offer classes to children as young as four months of age through advanced swimmers. Additionally, both companies offer classes for special needs children.
- Never consuming alcohol while operating a boat or any type of watercraft.
- Knowing, and being honest, about you, or your child’s swimming level.
- Understanding how to choose and fit a life jacket.
- Recognizing the risk of a “dry,” or delayed drowning.
The Arizona State Legislature has recognized the importance of pool safety and passed A.R.S. § 36-1681 to prevent children from gaining unsupervised access to residential swimming pools. The statute includes requirements such as: pool enclosure height (must be at least five feet high), door and gate measurements, when a wall or barrier is necessary and enclosure distance from the water’s edge.
In part, A.R.S. § 36-1681 states:
“A. A swimming pool, or other contained body of water that contains water eighteen inches or more in depth at any point and that is wider than eight feet at any point and is intended for swimming, shall be protected by an enclosure surrounding the pool area, as provided in this section.
- A swimming pool or other contained body of water required to be enclosed by subsection A whether a belowground or aboveground pool shall meet the following requirements:
- Be entirely enclosed by at least a five-foot wall, fence or other barrier as measured on the exterior side of the wall, fence or barrier.
- Have no openings in the wall, fence or barrier through which a spherical object four inches in diameter can pass. The horizontal components of any wall, fence or barrier shall be spaced not less than forty-five inches apart measured vertically or shall be placed on the pool side of a wall, fence or barrier which shall not have any opening greater than one and three-quarter inches measured horizontally. Wire mesh or chain link fences shall have a maximum mesh size of one and three-quarter inches measured horizontally.
- Gates for the enclosure shall:
(a) Be self-closing and self-latching with the latch located at least fifty-four inches above the underlying ground or on the pool side of the gate with a release mechanism at least five inches below the top of the gate and no opening greater than one-half inch within twenty-four inches of the release mechanism or be secured by a padlock or similar device which requires a key, electric opener or integral combination which can have the latch at any height.
(b) Open outward from the pool.
- The wall, fence or barrier shall not contain openings, handholds or footholds accessible from the exterior side of the enclosure that can be used to climb the wall, fence or barrier.
- The wall, fence or barrier shall be at least twenty inches from the water’s edge.”
Additionally, public swimming pools in Arizona must be in compliance with the Virginia Graeme Baker Federal Pool and Spa Safety Act. The Act was signed by President Bush on December 2007, to prevent public swimming pool and spa accidents.
It only takes seconds for tragedy to occur. Make sure that you have educated your household about the crucial elements of pool safety, so that your family may continue to enjoy Arizona’s sunny days and all the benefits a pool has to offer. Should you need any assistance with a pool related injury, please contact Negretti & Associates for a free consultation.