During National Water Safety Month, a local attorney weighs in on pool-safety legalities

Tom Reardon

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May is Water Safety Month in Arizona and you can take steps to prevent accidents in the pool.Getty Images

By Tom Reardon / NewsBreak Pinal County, AZ

(Pinal County, AZ) In the United States, more children between the ages of 1 and 4 die from drowning than any other cause of death except birth defects. Because of this, May is National Water Safety Month, and efforts to educate the public on how to keep children safe from this preventable crime are taking place across the state and here in Pinal County.

As recently as April 28, Rural Metro units were dispatched to a home in San Tan Valley where an eight-month-old male nearly drowned. The infant was part of a swim survival school and while taking part in the course, he inhaled water and was unconscious for over 30 seconds. An instructor was able to perform CPR and revive the child, but this illustrates just how easily drownings and near-drownings occur.

In Pinal County, there are both exterior and interior barrier requirements for homeowners who have a pool. The exterior barrier must be at least five feet high and have self-closing or self-latching gates where the latch is at least 54” above grade.

The interior barrier must be a five-foot-tall fence, or the homeowner must have doors that are self-closing or self-latching with the latch at least 54” from the floor or door alarms that meet the UL2017 code (associated with property or life/safety but not related to fire or security).

Pinal County homeowners can also substitute these measures with a five-foot-tall wrought iron pool fence to meet county requirements. One additional consideration for homeowners with a pool is that they cannot have a pet door that opens to the pool area. Individual cities and towns may have additional requirements, as well.

Attorney Marc Lamber of Fennemore Craig in Phoenix has represented clients and their estates in an estimated 15-20 drowning and near-drowning cases in his 31-year legal career. Lamber is a public safety advocate and has developed a passion for helping parents and homeowners understand the danger of pool negligence.

“Already the City of Phoenix experienced five fatal pediatric drownings through March 2022. Another occurred on April 1 in west Phoenix when a 3-year-old girl was pulled unconscious and not breathing from a pool. These young lives, cut tragically short so early in the year, foreshadow a deadly swim season beginning Memorial Day,” wrote Lamber in a recent column you can read here.

A personal injury lawyer, Lamber represents victims in accident cases. He was first introduced to drownings and near-drownings by representing children and/or their estates.

“I feel like so often, if people knew the rules before there was an accident, there would not be any incidents, or there would be so many less. Just thinking about these things ahead of time, can reduce the likeliness of drownings or all (pool-related) accidents,” says Lamber.

Lamber does not discount the importance of having the proper, mandated barrier for all pool owners.

“We have almost double the national rate of drownings here in Arizona. This is not surprising given that we have so many pools and the weather here is so warm. If you have a pool barrier, a pool fence, and in Arizona there is a statute that says that barrier has to be five feet high and has to have a self-closing/self-latching gate. If you have a barrier around your pool, it reduces the risk of drowning by an additional 80%,” says Lamber.

Lamber also discussed the statistical importance of swimming lessons and supervision of children, especially those under six years of age. If children have swimming lessons, they are 80% less likely to be part of a drowning or near-drowning.

“It sounds like common sense, but in today’s day and age, we have distractions where we have our cell phones and our iPads and when we are celebrating Memorial Day, (we may be) out drinking and we’re impaired as parents. When you have kids, you can’t allow that (distraction) to happen. You have a designated driver in the car (for these types of instances) and you need a designated supervisor for children by a pool,” Lamber says.

Pinal County has recently released a video for Water Safety month.

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Tom Reardon is a Phoenix native and has been writing about events in and around Arizona for the last decade.

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