According to SafeKids Worldwide, 50% – 90% of all drownings and near-drownings in backyard pools would be prevented if a four-sided isolation fence was installed.
Amazingly, also according to SafeKids Worldwide, only four states (CA, AZ, FL, and OR) require some type of fencing around residential pools. FENCING SHOULD BE MANDATORY IN EVERY STATE. Don’t agree with me? Ask Jo-Ann Morris. Ask Michelle Zieg.
Every residential pool should be fenced in… period! If children reside in the home or will ever visit, four-sided fencing is a must! In addition, while it is not substitute for fencing or supervision, every child should learn to swim. Self-closing gates and pool alarms like the SAFETY TURTLE should also be used. Every parent should follow the Safer 3.
Eric Probst, an attorney at the Law Firm of Porzio, Bromberg and Newman in Morristown, NJ has represented the swimming pool industry for over ten years. While he states clearly this message does NOT constitute legal advice, he comments: “I can tell you that a pool fence is definitely not a luxury. Fencing in your backyard pool is about safety. Child drowning issues are paramount for the builder and homeowner alike. Children are too often injured who have parents with the best intentions of keeping them.” As for liability, no hard-fast rules exist for imposing liability on a homeowner. Each case turns on the status of the person injured (trespasser, invitee, guest) and the facts of the case. Whether a state where a drowning occurs requires the pool owner to have a fence around the pool or not, would be but one fact for the court and jury to consider when evaluating whether the homeowner is responsible for the child’s drowning. There are many other facts that could exist that would affect the ultimate liability determination.
Several other experts have weighed in as well:
Rebecca Wear Robinson • Pool fencing can only be considered a luxury by people who don’t understand why fencing is needed. Indoor plumbing was considered a luxury as well – and people became sick and died from contaminated water sources (and still do in many areas). The bigger issue is communicating to everyone why a pool fence is no different from seat belts and car seats in cars – we have to teach children how to be safe for their whole life, but while they are learning we have to help keep them safe. A pool without a fence is no different from sending a 2-year old off to preschool with a cheery wave, hoping they figure traffic patterns successfully.
Jim Reiser • Rebecca is absolutely right! Fences around public pools are a requirement, and they should be for residential as well. No fence? No pool! It should be law! Whether it’s selfishness or ignorance, the lack of fencing around residential pools is basically killing innocent babies, toddlers, and young children. The homeowner, I would assume would not only be extremely liable if a child drown in their pool, they would have to live with that for the rest of their life.
Jeff Steers • I believe a pool fence is not a luxury, in terms of either safety or facility financial considerations.
It is my understanding (and I’ve been wrong before) that here in Indiana, a fence is required around pools in residential areas but not legally necessary in rural areas. I could be cynical and suggest the residential requirement is more for liability regarding the neighbor kids rather than legislating good parenting skills for the homeowner’s own children, but again, I could be wrong.
If we had a residential pool when our sons were toddlers, we certainly would have had a fence, not around the backyard, but the pool itself. We know how quickly very young children can escape even the best parental monitoring and supervision, and constantly hear news reports about how that has ended with a drowning in their own home pool.
Changing gears, what is the additional expense of installing a fence at a facility compared to the huge liability expense should an incident occur? And I would presume that the absence of a fence would create a larger ongoing liability expense in terms of increased premiums.
When I say liability expense, I am also speaking in terms of moral and ethical liability as well as financial. First, who wants to be known as the Drowning Place? Second, and more importantly, do we not have a caring responsibility toward our fellow human beings to prevent access when rescue staff are not available? To be even more melodramatic, not installing a fence around a pool is like the Titanic builders saying, “Ah, we don’t need so many lifeboats…”
I agree; I see a pool fence as not only very important, but as near necessity.
Don Coppedge • I’m glad we are on the same page. As someone in my line of work, I can’t tell you how many times I have come across misinformed consumers who do not think they can ever become victims of an accident; therefore, don’t need a pool fence.
I hope this blog will serve as a means to prevent childhood drowning.
Please feel free to add your comments too. If you are pro-fencing—I will approve them!
The International Swimming Hall of Fame has named Jim Reiser the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Hunt Newman Award for his curriculum and approach in teaching infants, toddlers, and children to swim. Jim is the first American to win the award in 10 years.
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