With three seasons of warm weather, swimming pools are used most of the year in South Florida. This is great for homeowners with backyard swimming pools. Yet, backyard pools have the potential for accidental drowning and near-drownings.
In 2000, the Florida legislature passed the “Preston de Ibern/McKenzie Merriam Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act” to help protect children and the elderly from accidental drowning. Before this pool safety act passed, Florida had the highest rate of drowning for children between 1-5 years of age in the nation. It was the state’s leading cause of death in young children between the ages of 1-14 years, and a significant cause of death for seniors between the ages of 65-94 years.
Many of these drownings occurred in backyard swimming pools. The pool safety act was designed to deny, delay or detect any unsupervised entries in order to reduce these deaths and near-drownings.
Safety Feature Options for Swimming Pools
All new residential pools must have one of the following safety features:
• An acceptable barrier or enclosure to isolate the pool from the rest of the property,
• An approved safety pool cover,
• An indoor pool’s direct access door or window must be equipped with an acceptable exist alarm – or be self-closing and self-latching with the latch out of reach of small children, or
• An acceptable swimming pool alarm, placed into the water, that signals when an accidental or unauthorized entry into the water occurs.
Barriers. An acceptable barrier or enclosure must be installed around the perimeter of the pool. Just having a fence around the backyard is not a sufficient safety feature under the pool safety act. To be acceptable, the barrier must be:
• At least four feet high,
• No gaps,
• Not placed at or too near the water’s edge, and
• A self-closing and self-latching gate opens away from the water, latching on the water side and out of reach of small children.
Penalties. Failure to meet these regulations may incur criminal penalties under Florida law. Thus, residential pool builders are required to provide homeowners with an affidavit before new construction can begin. It must include:
• The legal pool safety requirements, and
• A publication that provides information on drowning prevention and pool ownership responsibilities.
The residential pool builder handles securing the final inspection and obtaining the certificate of completion from a county inspector, building division.
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Fla. Stat. § 515.21, “Preston de Ibern/McKenzie Merriam Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act.” History.—s. 1, ch. 2000-143. (http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0500-0599/0515/0515ContentsIndex.html&StatuteYear=2016&Title=-%3E2016-%3EChapte)
Fla. Stat. § 515.23-37.