BROWARD COUNTY – Does your homeowner association know how to keep the swimming pool safe for children? The pool store? Do city inspectors and paramedics recognize a dangerous pool when they see one?
The Florida Department of Health in Broward County has launched a new project to teach pool safety to those groups. The effort is funded by a $250,000 federal grant, one of just five in the nation from the Consumer Products Safety Commission’s “Pool Safety” initiative.
“This grant will do a lot more to make our swimming pools safer and our families more aware about water safety,” says Dr. Paula Thaqi, Director of DOH-Broward. “Every drowning is a tragedy that is 100 percent preventable.”
Drowning is the leading accidental cause of death for children under age 5, especially in Broward, with its 130,000 swimming pools and miles of beaches and waterways. In 2015, six kids ages 1 to 4 died by water, says Cassie McGovern, Drowning Prevention Coordinator.
The best ways to prevent drowning are simple: Have a swim-capable adult watch children every second they are around water. Install fences, alarms and other barriers to block children from the water. Maintain a safe pool. Learn to swim.
The Pool Safely project is doing three things:
- Educate paramedics, other first responders and code enforcement inspectors about pool safety problems, such as broken gate locks, dangerous filter drains and missing safety equipment.
In some drowning tragedies, pool safety protections were not there. The goal is to raise the likelihood that someone will notice and report unsafe conditions before a tragedy occurs. DOH-Broward inspects all public pools in the county.
- Educate public pool owners, including homeowner associations, about safety protections pools should have – even if their pools are older and covered by looser rules. The information also is being shared with pool builders, installers, maintenance firms and supply stores.
The goal is to encourage everyone to bring unsafe pools up to standards. For the first time, pool stores will be asked to help promote drowning prevention to families.
- Increase education for families, child care providers, health care organizations and social service agencies about pool safety and drowning prevention.
Also, the project will include giving outdoor alarms and promoting free and reduced-price swim lessons for children and adults.