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Building Officials Still Seeing Swimming Pool Violations, State Issues Safety Guidelines

Newtown’s Chief Building Official John Poeltl has joined state Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein in reminding local homeowners of the latest regulations that protect users, especially children, from swimming pool tragedies. Sadly, Connecticut has already seen a child’s life lost in a swimming pool drowning incident this year.

Mr Poeltl told The Newtown Bee this week that during inspections, he is still encountering homeowners who are not adhering to statutory guidelines regarding pools — large and small.

“Any container capable of holding water in excess of 24 inches must be protected by a barrier, no matter how small, especially to protect young children who might wander or be tempted to lean or get into the water,” the building official said. “There are numerous specific guidelines related to the proper construction and installation of pool barriers - we invite residents to call or visit our office for that information.”

In certain situations, a local building official may even respond to a resident’s request to inspect their pool environment.

Among other situations Newtown building inspectors are still seeing are gates that do not self-close and lock from the inside; absence of floating alarms on in-ground and above ground pools; alarms between the residence and contiguous pool enclosures; and above ground pools with tilt-up and exposed ladders.

“A lot of people don’t realize any and every door that goes from a residence to the pool area must have an alarm, and above ground pools utilizing a ladder must also have a barrier. Tilt-up ladders are no longer allowed unless they also have protective barriers. New ladder models are now available with attached protective gates.”

As the weather heats up, the state Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) is reminding families and caregivers that supervising children around water is essential for their safety.

Commissioner William M. Rubenstein said in a June 3 notification that across the United States each day, ten people die from drowning, including two kids aged 14 or younger. And each day, ten youngsters who survive drowning are brought to hospital emergency departments for treatment of submersion injuries that can lead to severe brain damage and long-term disabilities.

Risk Factors Detailed

According to the DCP release, among the top factors that affect drowning risk include:

*Lack of Barriers: Barriers, such as pool fencing, prevent young children from gaining access to the pool area undetected. A four-sided isolation fence (that separates the pool area from the house and yard) reduces a child’s risk of drowning 83 percent compared to three-sided property-line fencing.

*Location: The majority of child drowning victims under age 4 drown in home swimming pools.

*Lack of Close Supervision: Drowning can happen quickly and quietly anywhere there is water and even in the presence of lifeguards. Yelling for help and flailing about are not accurate indicators of drowning. Seen from a distance, a drowning person can experience mortal distress, panic, and slip underwater with barely a splash.

*Lack of Swimming Ability: Among children between the ages of 1 and 4 years, participation in formal swimming lessons reduces the risk of accidental drowning.

The following information and reminders may help keep backyard water play safer:

*Supervise, supervise, supervise. Designate a responsible adult to watch young children at all times in and around water. When supervising toddlers and preschoolers at play, an adult should be within arm’s reach of the children at all times.

Because drowning occurs quickly and quietly, adults should not be involved in any other distracting activity (reading, tending to chores, playing cards, talking on the phone) while supervising children, even when at a public location with lifeguards on duty.

“Children also love to play in spas and hot tubs, but they need to be supervised, and never allowed to do headstands in the spa, because hair entrapment is a real danger,” said Al Rizzo of the Connecticut Spa and Pool Association. “In a few seconds, hair can become entrapped in suction outlets, so I always suggest bathing caps for anyone with long hair.”

*Secure, surround, and lock the backyard pool area. Pool owners should adopt several layers of protection, including a fence at least four feet high that surrounds the pool with self-closing, self-latching gates that open outward.

Layers Of Protection

Latches are best placed at adult shoulder height, out of children’s reach. A four-sided pool fence that totally separates the pool area from the house and yard is best.

A power safety cover over the pool when not in use is another layer of security. Automatic door/gate locks and fence alarms are options to further prevent access or provide alerts.

*Clear the pool, deck, and surrounding area. Remove floats, balls, and other toys from the pool and surrounding area immediately after use so children are not tempted to reenter the pool area unsupervised. Store benches, ladders, or other items that small children could use to help them reach the gate latch.

“Don’t let vegetation obstruct your view of any area in the pool, make sure patio furniture is at least four feet away from the edge of the pool, and remember that floating toys such as rafts and ‘noodles’ should not be used by nonswimmers unless they also wear a Coast Guard-approved life preserver,” Mr Rizzo said. “Floating toys are dangerous when multiple children are in the water, as they can obstruct a clear view.”

Promote the buddy system. Make it a family habit and backyard rule to always “swim with a buddy.” And learn CPR. In the time it takes for paramedics to arrive, CPR skills could save someone’s life.

Licensed pool and spa workers are qualified to do pool and spa safety inspections, which are recommended to be done every 12 months on home pools and spas.

In 2011 penalties for engaging in swimming pool maintenance and repair work without a license were increased, and builders of pools were required to be licensed.

On May 28, Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed Public Act 2014-50, requiring licensees to complete three hours of continuing education every two years, putting the licensee in a position to provide Connecticut swimmers increased protection through strict licensing and educational standards.

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