Many regions in Florida enjoy year-round balmy temperatures, which makes swimming with dolphins or taking a dip in a lake popular activities. Of course, for those who live in the Sunshine State or have vacation homes in Florida, backyard pools are also popular.
But the prevalence of residential pools has also prompted safety concerns. In fact, in 2000, state legislators, acknowledging that drowning is the leading cause of death among young children in the state, passed a safe pool law, which added extra safety requirements for homeowners building residential pools.
Drowning Risks Prompt Concern
Drowning deaths or near-drowning injuries can take only a few minutes to occur. For every child who drowns, only three receive emergency medical care. Possible injuries related to near-drowning include brain damage that ranges from learning disabilities to a permanent vegetative state.
Drowning poses a risk not just for children, but also for medically frail elderly individuals. Florida law defines a “medically frail elderly individual” as a person age 65 and older who has a medical problem that could affect his or her balance, vision or judgment. These could be caused by a heart condition, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease or other disorders.
Required Safety Measures for Residential Pools
The best way to prevent drowning is constant adult supervision of children and medically frail elderly people. However, as a backup, state law in Florida requires residents who have swimming pools, spas or hot tubs to also have at least one safety feature in place. Under the law, swimming pools are defined as structures that contain water that’s more than 24 inches, or 2 feet, deep. The law for residential swimming pools is outlined in the Preston de Ibern/McKenzie Merriam Residential Pool Safety Act. It requires Floridians to choose at least one of four safety measures when they install a pool, spa or hot tub.
- One of the viable safety measures is a barrier that isolates the pool from the home, which could be a fence or a wall, or a combination of both, that surrounds the pool. The barrier should prevent access to the swimming pool from the residence or from the yard. It must be at least 4 feet high.
- Another approved safety measure is a pool cover that’s either manual- or power-operated and meets standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials.
- Or, Floridians with pools can have an exit alarm equipped on all doors and windows that have direct access to the pool. Under the law, the alarm must make an audible, continuous alarm sound any time a door or window that allows direct access from the residence to the pool area is opened or left ajar.
- The final safety precaution that’s allowed under Florida law is a self-closing, self-latching device on all doors and gates that provide direct access to the residential pool.
Other Florida Pool Laws
Under the residential pool safety law, pool contractors are also required to provide customers with a copy of the statute and a drowning prevention publication, “Safety Barrier Guidelines for Home Pools.” For public pools, the state requires that swimming pools and spa pools with heaters don’t exceed a maximum temperature of 104 degrees F.
When it comes to hours of operation, no state laws dictate hours. However, if a pool remains open at night, the pool and pool deck must have proper lighting for the safety of swimmers. To obtain a pool permit that allows “night swimming,” a professional must conduct a field test to make sure the lighting requirements are met according to Florida Health guidelines.