Summer Pool Safety in Southern California: Recent Pool Accidents Serve as Reminders
Every year in Southern California, several children lose their lives in swimming pools. Others survive but suffer with catastrophic injuries that leave them, very often, permanently disabled. Though these incidents happen throughout the year, swimming pool accidents are more common in the summer. Whether at crowded Southland public pools or at privately owned pools, swimming poses a significant danger. The City of Los Angeles, Recreation and Parks Department, Aquatics Division operates more than 50 pools. San Diego operates 13 public pools. Between private residential pools, pools at apartments and condominiums and housing complexes, there are tens of thousands of pools in Southern California. Hotels, resorts and water parks contribute thousands more. All of them are potentially hazardous and require diligence by owners and operators to ensure that swimmers are kept safe.

Already in Southern California this year, there have been multiple tragedies. One of the swimming pool accident cases involves 17-year-old Anandre Thomas. The teen survived a swimming pool accident in early June in the crowded south Los Angeles public pool located in Jesse Owens Park. Despite the lifeguards on duty, he was under water for more than 5 minutes according to witnesses. Though he survived, he is currently on life-support and is not expected to recover according to a story published in the Los Angeles Times (“Family: Teen likely brain-dead after near-drowning at public pool“).  In the San Diego area, a 5-year-old boy recently lost his life after being found in a condominium complex pool according to CBS News 8’s article “5-year-old boy found face-down in pool dies.”

And a 2-year-old died during a backyard pool party in Orange County that had more than 100 people in attendance. According to the story “2-Year-Old’s Death Renews Pool-Safety Warnings” no one heard or noticed that the child was missing and submerged until it was too late.

Every year, parks and recreation departments, hospitals, fire fighters, paramedics and the mass media make an effort to remind people of the importance of pool safety, but every year more death and devastation occurs. The most important tip for pool safety is to watch children around water. But in the case of Anandre Thomas, he was not a young child and there were lifeguards on duty. Though details  are still emerging in the case, gross negligence may have played a role according to the family. The Times reports that the family does plan to sue the city for negligence.

These recent tragedies are reminders of a major problem in California and throughout the nation especially in states with high numbers of swimming pools like Arizona, California, Florida and Nevada. This is why organizations like the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA) post familiar tips and continue to educate the public. Certain tips are repeated every year: “watch children around water” and homes “should be isolated from the pool with a fence” and have a self-closing, self-latching gate. Despite these tips, accidents still happen.

In addition to the aforementioned, children should also be given extensive swimming lessons. And if they do not know how, adults should also learn to swim and know CPR if they are going to be responsible for children around water. Other tips compiled by a wide range of sources including the NDPA, Pool Safely and the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department:

  • “Always practice constant adult supervision around any body of water. Older children should not be left in charge of younger children in the pool area” (San Diego Fire-Rescue Department).
  • “Knowing how to swim does not make a child drown-proof. Flotation devices are not a substitute for supervision” (San Diego Fire-Rescue Department).
  • Make someone a water watcher and, at public pools, make sure they have a lifeguard or lifeguards appropriate for the number of swimmers.
  • Check that the pool fence, gate or other safety mechanism is working properly. The safety procedures only work if they are working properly.
  • If a child is missing, check the pool and nearby pools first. Pulling a drowning victim from the pool as soon as possible can make a tremendous amount of difference for their chances of recovery. Seconds matter (NDPA).
  • Make sure that pools are clean so that the bottom of the pool is clearly visible. If the water is cloudy, seeing a drowning victim may be dangerously difficult.
  • Demand that the Virginia Graeme Baker Act be enforced. This was passed by the federal government in 2007 after former Secretary of State James Baker’s 7-year-old granddaughter died while entrapped by a hot tub’s powerful drain suction in 2002. The Act requires that all pools, with the exception of privately owned residential pools, have special covers on their pool and spa drains to prevent entrapment drowning. If you are at a public pool, a resort pool or a condo, apartment or housing complex pool, the special drain covers should be in place. If they are not, the operator may be in violation of the law and should be reported to the appropriate authorities.

Though thousands of people enjoy pools every day, they can be deadly and should be accorded respect for their potential to cause injury.  If a family is grieving a wrongful death or serious injuries after a swimming pool tragedy, personal injury attorneys experienced in this area of the law are prepared to get justice and compensation. But, through taking steps towards prevention, these tragedies may be avoided altogether.

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