Children splashing with enjoyment is an image Florida pool owners hold dear, but that image can turn to tragedy in an instant. The Florida Department of Health reports that unintentional drowning is the leading cause of death for children aged 1 to 4. In 2001, the Florida Legislature passed the Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act, requiring pool owners to install safety features to prevent unauthorized or unintended pool access.
The resulting Florida building code is intended to protect small children and frail elderly people. The Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act recognizes that drowning and near drowning incidents result in "incalculable human cost" but also in enormous costs to the state. The legislation contends that pool safety features, along with constant adult supervision, will reduce accidental drownings.
A pool fence must be tall enough to prevent young children from climbing over, with a minimum height of 48 inches, with no exposed footholds and no openings larger than 2 1/4 inches. The maximum gap between the pool deck and the bottom of the fence is two inches while all openings must be small enough that a four-inch sphere cannot pass through--provisions to prevent a small child from becoming entrapped in the fence.
All access gates in the pool enclosure must be self-closing with a self-locking mechanism on the pool side of the fence. If the latch is 54 inches or higher, the lock can be placed on either side of the fence providing a child cannot reach it through a gap or from a raised step, ledge or shelf. All pool gates must open away from the pool, with no opening larger than 1/2 inch allowed within 18 inches of the lock.
Barrier Between Pool and Home
In 2001, legislators agreed not to require all pool owners to install a permanent barrier between the home and the pool. However, pool owners must equip all doors that open directly to the pool with a self-closing and self-latching device. All windows that access the pool must be fitted with an audible alarm set to sound when the window is opened.
Bugs, lizards and the occasional snake are a problem for Florida pool owners, so pool builders offer the option of a screened enclosure around the pool. The self-latching and self-locking requirements for gates also apply to screen enclosures; mesh openings must also be no larger than 2 1/4 inches. After severe hurricanes in 2005 knocked over thousands of screened pool enclosures, the building code was updated. New screen enclosures must be able to withstand wind speeds of 150 mph.
Mesh Fence Panels
Florida pool owners with small children frequently install semi-permanent mesh safety barriers between the house and the pool. These latching mesh panels are sold in heights of 48 and 60 inches. They must be placed at least 20 inches from the edge of the pool, with a maximum one-inch gap between the pool deck and the bottom of the fence. The installer drills holes into the patio deck and aluminum poles are inserted; at least one end of the fence must be attached to a permanent structure. Homeowners like this option because the fences can be removed for entertaining or when children no longer need the safety barrier.
Above-ground pools must also be protected from unintended access. The pool owner must ensure that the pool ladder or steps are enclosed by a barrier that meets the standards for an in-ground pool, or they can be locked, secured or removed to prevent access.
- Photo Credit young boy at swimming pool image by pixelcarpenter from Fotolia.com Park Fence image by loydall from Fotolia.com wohnungstÃ¼r (2) image by fuxart from Fotolia.com lizard on screen image by Pix by Marti from Fotolia.com
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