Building a Backyard Pool in Florida: Safety Measures You’ll Need

Building a Backyard Pool in Florida: Safety Measures You’ll Need

Building a Backyard Pool in Florida: Safety Measures You’ll Need

With beautiful weather year-round, Florida is an ideal place to build a residential swimming pool. However, if you and your family are thinking of improving your backyard by adding your very own pool, there are a few safety measures that you’ll need to consider first.


That’s because Florida has a Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act that requires all pools built after October 1, 2000 to have specific safety features. The Act (which has actually been a law since 2009) was implemented in an effort to prevent drowning accidents in the state that has the highest drowning rate in the country for children ages 1-14.


Whether you’re just now building a swimming pool or you have a home pool that was built before 2000 and doesn’t meet the current safety standards, do your part to prevent drowning accidents. Here are the minimum safety features your pool should include.


Features to Help Keep Your Pool Safe


The Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act actually only requires that you have one of the following safety features, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t add more in an effort to make your pool as secure as possible.


Safety pool cover. Your cover can be either manual or power-operated, but it needs to meet the performance standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Modern power-operated pool covers tend to be a good choice because they can completely seal the pool when not in use.


Safety Pool Covers - Pool Accident Lawyer

Barrier. Florida has strict requirements for what constitutes a pool barrier. Your barrier needs to be at least 4 feet high, may not have any gaps or other openings that a young child could crawl through, must go all the way around the perimeter of the pool, and needs to be far enough away from the pool that a child or medically frail person who fell through the barrier would not immediately fall in the water. Any gate in the barrier must be self-closing and have a release latch on the inside of the enclosure, where a child could not easily reach it from outside the barrier.


Home exit alarm. Although not as common as enclosures or pool covers, you can choose to install a home exit alarm on all doors or windows that have direct access to the pool. However, keep in mind that your pool still needs to have some kind of barrier to prevent children in the neighborhood—not just your own kids—from getting in the pool undetected.


Child-proof latching device. You may choose to install a self-closing, self-latching device with a release mechanism at least 54 inches off the ground on any door leading out to your pool. As with the home exit alarm, this is best paired with some kind of barrier in order to protect both your own kids and potentially trespassing neighborhood children.


Pool Safety Is Worth the Investment


The Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act isn’t just an elaborate plan to get you to spend more money when building your pool; backyard pool drowning is a major issue in Florida, and it’s important that all homeowners with pools do what they can to minimize this risk. The initial cost of adding something like a barrier or a pool cover is far less than the cost of a life.



Swimming Pool Drains Pose Major Danger to Children

Swimming Pool Drains Pose Major Danger to Children

Swimming Pool Drains Pose Major Danger to Children
Do you have a backyard pool that has been on your property for years? Do you know if that pool uses a drain system? If so, you may need to add some new safety features to keep your family safe this summer.


Many older pools, both public and residential, were built with drains because pool designers originally believed drains were necessary to keep water circulating and reduce contamination. However, the suction created by these drains can exert 500 or more pounds of pressure if a person or object becomes stuck in them, making it almost impossible to lift someone who is trapped against one of these underwater drains.


According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were 83 reported swimming pool drain accidents between 1999 and 2008, including 11 deaths. This number is most likely a low estimate, as medical records and the police don’t always report the specific cause of drowning deaths. Whatever the exact number, it’s clear that the majority of accident victims are children who do not recognize the potential dangers of swimming pool drains.


Pool Designers Moving Away from Drains, but Older Pools Still a Problem


In recent years, swimming pool designers have looked at computational fluid dynamics using computer simulations of pools and have discovered that pools without drains are no less effective than pools with drains when it comes to circulating the water. This knowledge, paired with reports of horrific child drowning accidents, has led many designers to eliminate drains altogether from modern pools. Those public pools that were already built with drains are now required to use special rounded drain covers that don’t create suction.


Unfortunately, regulations on residential pools vary from state to state, and removing unsafe drains is not always a requirement. In Florida, people who have residential pools are only required to have one of several specifically outlined safety features, and some of those safety features are not necessarily enough to prevent a drowning accident (it is possible for a child to fall through a swimming pool cover, for example).


If you own a swimming pool, it is up to you to take the proper precautions to prevent drain-related and other drowning accidents.


5 Tips to Keep Your Pool Safe


Tips Keep Your Pool Kid Safe
If kids are going to be using your pool this summer, keep the following safety tips in mind: (It’s a good idea to follow these tips whether your pool has drains or not.)


1. Always supervise children. Never leave children without adult supervision in a pool, even if they have taken swimming lessons and appear to be competent swimmers (swimming abilities will not help if they become stuck on a drain).

2. Add a safety fence. Create some kind of barrier that completely surrounds your pool and that kids cannot easily climb over.

3. Update your pool’s safety features. If your pool currently has flat drain covers that create suction, upgrade to the kind of domed pool covers that public pools now use. You should also consider investing in a safety vacuum release system, which will cause pool drains to stop creating suction if a person or object becomes stuck in them.

4. Warn kids about drain dangers. Even if your pool already has domed covers and a safety vacuum release system, caution your kids to stay clear of the drain. They should also avoid wearing jewelry or baggy clothing and should put long hair in a bun or ponytail to prevent themselves from getting caught on any of the pool’s features.

5. Don’t try to lift a child straight off a pool drain. Because traditional pool drains have such powerful suction, it is impossible to pull a stuck child straight off the pool drain. If your child does become stuck, you will need to wedge your fingers or arm in between the child and the drain to break the suction, and then you will have to roll the child away from the drain.


If you take the proper precautions and know what to do in the event of an emergency, there’s no reason why you and your family can’t enjoy your backyard pool this summer.


About the Author:

Jeffrey Braxton is a trial lawyer in Fort Lauderdale who has devoted his 22-year career to the practice of personal injury law. As lead trial attorney for The South Florida Injury Law Firm, Jeff has litigated thousands of cases and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, an exclusive group of attorneys who have resolved cases in excess of one million dollars.