Orange County has a mild climate throughout most of year and we have one of the highest concentrations of pools in the country. However, in California, drowning is the leading cause of death in children under the age of 14 and it is a silent killer.
Last month the media reported on a near drowning of a toddler from Los Angeles. Far too often we read about senseless deaths and serious injuries to children due to the fact that responsible adults were not watching the pool. For each child that drowns, four are hospitalized for near drowning trauma. Near drowning episodes can cause serious personal injury such as hypoxia, or lack of oxygen to the brain which in turn can cause permanent serious neurological disabilities.
A child can drown in as little as one inch of water, and drowning is usually quick and silent. After as little as two minutes under water, a child will lose consciousness and within four to six minutes, irreversible brain damage most likely will occur.
In addition to the drowning danger in pools, prior to last year there were several serious pool accident injuries in Orange County, disembowelments and even deaths involving pool drains. The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act requires all public pools in the United States to install anti-entrapment drain covers.
The new federal regulation has caused a lot of confusion among homeowners’ associations and public pools which feel that they can’t afford the upgrades and new construction costs to meet the guidelines. Orange County has about 7,300 public pools and there are no guarantees all will be in compliance this year. As of September of 2009, only half of Orange County’s pools had submitted paperwork to prove there were compliant.
One Seal Beach man tested his condo complex’s new drains with unsettling results. He has two children so he wanted to test the new drains for himself. He dove down to lie over the new drain and found his trunk area sucked onto the grate. Luckily he was strong enough to push himself away but what if this had happened to a small child? Would they panic or think quickly to push themselves away?
Since this new ruling does not apply to private pools, parents need to advise their children to stay away from the strong suction around drains. Loose fitting swim suits, long hair and thin body parts can all become entangled in hot tub or swimming pool drains.
If you are a pool owner, you can be held liable if someone is injured in your pool. Here are a few safety tips to consider:
· Always have a dedicated adult watch swimmers at all times · When pool is not in use, consider installing a gate or fence to protect children from entering the pool area · Keep a phone outside during swim time to avoid the temptation of answering it inside.
· Don’t use floating chlorine dispensers that look like toys.
· Teach children after 4 years of age how to swim, float and get out of the pool.
· Don’t depend on flotation-type “float ties” as a substitution for child safety · As a pool owner, stay current in infant CPR and first aid.
James Ballidis is an attorney with Allen, Flatt Ballidis and Leslie, a firm dedicated to helping Orange County residents that are injured in an accident or de to the negligence of others. Call 1 866 981-5596 if you need help with an injury accident.