East County News Service
October 12, 2017 (Sacramento) – Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law Senate Bill 442, which aims to help make residential swimming pools safer. It requires new safety features for new pools and pools undergoing major repairs or remodeling, a well as disclosure of pool safety problems when a home is sold.
Drowning is currently the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4 in Califorinia. Drowning is a silent killer and only takes less than a couple minutes. Hospital records in California show for every fatal pool drowning there are five other near-drowning incidents resulting in hospitalization, with brain injury due to asphyxiation (lack of oxygen to the brain) being the main cause of the hospitalization.
From 2010 to 2014, over 160 toddlers died of drowning in our state, From 2010 to 2016, another 740 children suffered a near-fatal drowning resulting in hospitalization and brain damage, according to California’s Department of Public Health EPICenter and the national Center for Disease Control’s WISQARS[i] injury data systems
The initial hospitalization care and cost is $5 million for one such brain injured child.
The California Department of Developmental Services (DDS), which provides care and treatment for individuals with serve brain damage, reported that in December 2016 there were 770 clients receiving care due to near-drowning brain damage. DDS near-drowning clients who need to be institutionalized due to the extent of their brain damage, costs $30,000 a month for care and treatment. Drowning and near-drowning is a huge cost not only regarding the loss of a young life and to their families, but it also has a major impact on California’s healthcare systems, special education programs, but also to the California taxpayer.
What does the bill do? SB 442 updates California’s 1996 Pool Safety Act, to:
- Require that new pools, pools being repaired or retrofitted requiring a building permit must have two pool safety barriers installed, before the final building permit can be signed. The pool owners are provided a choice of seven types of safety barriers that work best for their pool location and situation. All of the seven allowed chooses must meet ASTM national safety standards. The list of seven safety options are: isolation fencing, with self closing latching gate; removable mesh fencing with self closing latching gate; pool cover; door to the pool alarm; self closing and latching door to the pool with latch 54” above the floor; in the pool alarm; or other technologies approved by ASTM as equivalent pool safety barrier.
- The door to the pool alarm under SB 442 will be allowed to be either a siren shrill noise or a verbal warning alarm (“Door to the Pool is open, Door to the pool is open,…..”).
- Pools associated with a home sale, must be inspected by an appropriate home inspector, and lack of compliance with the Pool Safety Act must be reported in the home sale defect report, along with other safety and structural issues such as working smoke alarms, water heater earthquake strap and other defects that are reported.
- The bill also makes the Pool Safety Act uniform across the state.
“We want to thank Governor Brown for signing model legislation aimed at reducing childhood drowning in California,” states Brad Wenger, President of Association of California Life and Health Insurance Companies, and Chair of the California Coalition for Children’s Safety and Health (CCCSH). “And, we want to thank Senator Josh Newman (District 29 – Orange County) and Senator Nancy Skinner (District 9 – Contra Costa County) for authoring and co-authoring the legislation, with leadership from the Drowning Prevention Foundation, and support from the Health Officers Association of California (HOAC), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), California Pool and Spa Association (CPSA), and Safe Kids International and California Branches. Lastly, we would also like to thank the many parents and families who have lost children due to drowning, for sharing their child’s drowning story to help explain how backyard pool drowning happens.”
Toddlers ages 1 to 4 years old have gained a lot of agility and are naturally drawn to water. Even when a pool is closed, not being used, they will gain access to the pool unless blocked, and often times that is not a pool located at their home. It is when they gain access to a pool unsupervised by a responsible adult; they are very vulnerable to drowning.
“The layers of safety protection provided in SB 442 would have made a difference in all of these childhood drowning incidents examples,” a press release from the California Coalition for Children’s Safety and Health states.
Parents share tragic stories of child drowning
The Coalition has provided personal stories of parents who agreed to share their child’s drowning stories to help other parents, caregivers, pool owners and policymakers understand how important it is to have layers of protection when it comes to pool safety--and why it is incorrect to assume parents hold all of the responsibility for protecting their children from drowning in residential pools:
- “Cody my two year old son was taking a nap with his three year old sister at home,” explains Marcia Kerr, Cody’s mother. “A pool service person had removed the safety pool cover to service the pool. Cody woke up early, wandered out of the house unnoticed through an unlocked, unalarmed door to the unfenced pool and drowned. Had other barriers and/or warning devises been in place, adults in the house would have been warned and Cody would not have been able to access the pool unsupervised.” Family lives in Orange County.
- “Nicky was five and playing outside of our home with neighborhood kids on Father’s day,” states Carol Norman, Nicky’s mother. “When my husband, Nicky’s father noticed the kids were no longer playing in front of the house he went out to see where Nicky was. He knocked on the door of a neighbor who had recently moved into the neighborhood. Their five year old girl, who had befriended Nicky, answered the door and when asked where Nicky was she said, “he had gone swimming with her in the pool, but he drowned.” My husband immediately entered the home and went to the pool and found Nicky unresponsive in the pool. There was a back door alarm deactivated leading to the pool. The mother of the girl was napping, and had no idea the children had come inside, and that her daughter and Nicky had accessed the pool. Had there been multiple barriers of warning, preventing access to the pool Nicky would not have accessed the pool and drowned.” Nicky’s family lives in San Diego.
- “Jasper our two year old active son was being cared for in our home, while we were at work,” explains Julie Lopiccolo, Jasper’s mother. “We do not have a pool because of the danger, and have all of the normal safety devices in place to protect a young child from harm. Without our permission or knowledge, Jasper’s adult babysitter brought Jasper to her home, where there was a pool. While she was using the restroom, he was able to open their back door. She found him a few minutes later drowned in the pool. Jasper’s father and I lay with him in his hospital bed for several days before the MRI would diagnose how much brain damage he had suffered when he drowned. Our hearts broke as we stayed with him until he passed away one week later, when he became an organ donor. We could not protect Jasper that day. Had there been multiple barriers, like we require in so many other settings that pose a threat to children, he would be with us today and starting kindergarten along with his cousins and friends.” Jasper’s family lives in Fullerton.
- “Samira and JJ were my two year old and 14 month old children and were at home with a babysitter, while we were out to dinner,” explains Nadina Riggsbee, Samira and JJ’s mother. “The sitter let the dog out but, when closing the door, she neglected to engage the lock at the top of the door frame. Unnoticed, Samira and JJ went out through the unlocked back door of our home, where the sitter found them both unresponsive in the unfenced pool just a few minutes later. Samira my two year old daughter could not be revived. JJ, my little 14 month old boy was revived, but suffered severe brain damage as is common for near-drowning victims. Brain damage is caused by asphyxiation while under water. JJ has not talked or walked since that day, and is now the oldest living near drowning victim here in California. He is being cared for along with 770 other brain damaged near-drowning children by California’s Department of Developmental Services at a cost of $30,000 a month. An isolation fence around the pool would have stopped both children from reaching the water.” Samira and JJ’s family live in Contra Costa County.:
- Last September in Fresno, Elizabeth and Jaycee, who were three and two years old siblings, were playing at their home, with relatives watching out for them while their parents were at work. The two children snuck out of their home through a garage door, went to a neighbor’s home, made it through a fence and were found several hours later by the neighbor drowned in her pool.