New Calif. law aims to reduce pool and spa drownings

Under the new law, new pools and spas must have at least two safety mechanisms, such as a fence or an alarm

By Scott Schwebke
The Orange County Register

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A law that will go into effect Monday, Jan. 1 requiring an additional safety feature for newly constructed or remodeled pools and spas aims to reduce drownings – the leading cause of death among California toddlers.

It further strengthens a 20-year-old regulation requiring new or remodeled pools to have at least one safety device, such as a fence, a cover or an alarm. Under the new law, new pools and spas must have at least two safety mechanisms.

“I was struck by the fact that a modest, common-sense update to existing law could go a long way toward not only saving California families the lifetime of heartache caused by pool drownings, but also (save) taxpayers millions of dollars associated with children who are rescued from pool drownings but suffer brain injuries that require massively expensive lifelong care,” said state Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, who was the bill’s author.

The new law requires that new or remodeled pools are equipped with at least two of these features:

• An enclosure isolating the pool or spa from a single-family home.

• A qualified, removable mesh fencing with a  self-closing, self-latching gate with a lock.

• An approved safety pool cover.

• Exit alarms on the home’s doors that provide direct access to the swimming pool or spa.

• On home doors leading to a pool or spa, a self-closing, self-latching device with a release mechanism that is at least 54 inches above the ground.

• An alarm that, when placed in the swimming pool or the spa, sounds when an unauthorized person enters the water.

• Another means of protection accepted under the law.

Drowning is the leading cause of death among children ages one to four, claiming the lives of more than 160 such boys and girls in California from 2010 to 2014, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Since 2015, 14 children in that age group have drowned in Orange County, said Capt. Larry Kurtz of the Orange County Transportation Authority.

“The Orange County Fire Authority is thrilled with any requirement that improves safety around pools for children,” he said.

Those sentiments were echoed by Max Gomez Sr. of Garden Grove, who along with his wife, Michelle, operate Maxi’s Gift Foundation, which pays for swimming lessons for children who can’t afford them and CPR courses for individuals of all ages.

The nonprofit is named in honor of the couple’s son, Maxi, who was 2 1/2-years old when he drowned in the family’s backyard pool in 2013.

“When I heard that news, I was ecstatic,” Gomez said about the Senate bill becoming law. “People are out there fighting every day for new laws to protect children. It’s wonderful.”

Copyright 2017 The Orange County Register

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