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Arlington Girls Drowns, Florida Leads Nation in Child Drownings

Posted on June 14, 2008

These are the sorts of stories we hear far too many of in the summer.

This weekend a six-year-old girl drowned at a pool party in the Arlington section of Jacksonville. About a half dozen children were in the pool, which the sheriff’;s office reports was “cloudy”.

The girl went under the surface and none of the adults at the home saw her. When they finally did, one person tried to resuscitate the girl but she was pronounced dead after being taken to Wolfson Children’;s Hospital.

Unfortunately, Florida leads the nation in young children who drown in swimming pools. Most of the time it happens in the back yard. Most of the children are under the age of five.

There is no word on whether this child couldn’;t swim. Sometimes children are trapped in pool drains and simply cannot get back to the surface.

In Florida, its estimated about 150 mostly children drowned or were injured in recent years, because of faulty drain covers that did not protect swimmers from suction forces.

Last June, the state Building Commission just stopped requiring new pools have a safety vacuum-release system. 

That is a device that automatically detects when a drain has an impediment blocking it and shuts off, cutting the suction that may be pulling a child to the bottom of the pool. 

Later this year, when new pool building codes go into effect, and the safety vacuum-release systems will remain an option. That resulted from pool industry trade association pressure that people should use “his or her own independent judgment.”  

There is no love lost between the pool building trade and the safety vacuum-release system manufacturers. 

Paul Pennington, the Tampa Tribune reports, has a company called Vac-Alert that sells the devices. He was successful in getting Florida to require a vacuum release device in 2002.  But last June he says, and records show, he was kept out of the discussion on the new pool building codes.

The pool builders group contends that the vacuum-release systems are not effective if a swimmer’;s hair or limb is entangled in a pool train cover, and to require vacuum-release systems would give a false sense of security. 

Of course, people should maintain their pools, have multiple drains to spread around the suction, as well as anti-entrapment drain covers to avoid accidents.

But sometimes pools are reported to be “cloudy”. Who knows how well they are maintained. 

Wouldn’;t a little extra security, such as being able to shut down the pool if someone is stuck, offer a great deal of peace of mind and maybe save a life in an emergency? 

According to the Tampa Tribune, the International Building Code and Residential Codes, both consider the safety vacuum-release system to be the gold standard of the building industry.

Maybe the Florida Building Commission, made up of appointed individuals, needs some input from parents, the public, the Florida Department of Health, and independent pool safety experts before it makes such an important decision.

Drowning is silent and fast. Security devices will help.

Supervision is still your best preventative.