CAPE CORAL, Fla – Florida leads the nation when it comes to accidental childhood drownings and the number the state is seeing is going up amid the pandemic.
According to Attorney Michael Haggard who’s also on the board of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, the most important thing pool owners need to have are layers of protection. It’s something that's required under Florida law.
Parental supervision is the first layer of protection. Then Florida pool owners are required to have either:
- Alarms on the sliding glass doors that lead to the pool and sound loudly when the doors are open,
- A perimeter fence around the pool with self-latching and self-closing gates, or
- A pool cover.
With parents and kids spending more time at home amid the pandemic, it's leading to more lapses in supervision and that can be deadly if a pool isn't up to code.
Haggard said drowning is the second leading cause of death for children in the U.S. and is number one in Florida.
Part of the problem is how many residential, apartment and condominium pools the state has. The next problem is the pandemic. Early on when we saw people start to hunker down at home, we also saw an increase in child drownings from 2019 to 2020.
“I think we attribute it to people, kids are not in school. Kids are not in activities, after-school activities. So number one, when you think about little toddlers and stuff, they can get into their home pool. When you start thinking about a little of older kids, they're riding bikes more, might be getting near lakes, getting near retention ponds. Just being at home and not being at a classroom or football practice, in Florida you're more apt to be at the water. That's where we saw that increase in drownings,” said Haggard.
In addition to new builders and homeowners adding more water, we're also seeing existing homeowners adding pools amid the pandemic. As lifestyle habits change and people spend more time at home, pool companies have seen a boom. It’s why Haggard said those layers of protection are more important than ever.