12 News Defenders: Swimming pool safety laws often not enforced - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

12 News Defenders: Pool laws to protect children often not followed, enforced

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A 'Baby Barrier' brand fence is just one option for pool owners. A 'Baby Barrier' brand fence is just one option for pool owners.
It's believed the gap in this fence led to two drownings at a Montgomery apartment complex. It's believed the gap in this fence led to two drownings at a Montgomery apartment complex.
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

Swimming pools can be the center of summertime fun, or in the blink of an eye, they can be the site of tragedy, especially when it comes to children.

Most parents watch their kids closely. But there are times when that's not possible. That's when local safety ordinances can save lives.

There are swimming pools in almost every neighborhood these days. But the 12 News Defenders found that many pool owners don't know about the ordinances. Or they're ignoring it.

Montgomery mother Piper Vance's backyard swimming pool is in full compliance with the law. In fact, she took safety a step further by having a 'Baby Barrier' installed.

"I was having dreams before we moved into the house that something was going to happen to my children," Vance explained.

A 'Baby Barrier' is an expandable, temporary fence that is child proof. Company officials say the fences cost around $15 per linear foot.

"Because I had an 18-month-old and a 3-year-old, I would not move into the house until we completely closed off the pool."

[WEB EXTRA: Read more about Baby Barrier products]


Child drownings more prevalent than some realize

"Drowning deaths in the south are the number-1 cause of death among small children," according to Beasley-Allen attorney Chris Glover.

Glover represents the family of two children who drowned recently in a Montgomery apartment complex swimming pool. He says the fence was in violation of city ordinances

A photo showed how the bars of the fence had been pulled apart, allowing small children to climb through.

"Those children would still be alive today if that fence hadn't had a hole in it," Glover contends.

Montgomery's Pool Safety Ordinance

Montgomery's swimming pool safety ordinance says fences cannot have gaps that are wider than 6 inches. Glover thinks the maximum should be 4 inches.

According to the ordinance, fences also must enclose a pool entirely and be tall enough that a child can't climb over them -- at least 44 inches.

Also, all gates must be self-latching. Often they're combination locks or latches that are too high for children to reach.

If a wall of the house is used as part of the enclosure, it is recommended that doors leading out to the pool have an audible alarm when opened.

Violations of the law can lead to fines and up to six months in jail.

[WEB EXTRA: Pool barrier guidelines from the Consumer Product Safety Commission]


Enforcement is limited

Most cities have similar pool requirements. But all too often, the regulations are not enforced.

"There's a pool in my neighborhood that doesn't have a fence at all around it," Glover told us. "I don't understand how that's the case."

The problem lies in the fact that no one is looking out for violations. There are just too many pools for Montgomery inspectors to visit them all.

Swimming pools in Montgomery are inspected only once -- when they're built. 

That's why city officials encourage citizens, if they see a swimming pool violation, to call in a complaint to the city inspection department.

For Piper's family and others, a fence provides peace of mind, ensuring that their children and their neighbors' children are protected.

"Now we know they can't get into the pool," Vance says.


Other pool safety ideas

There are other safety features not required by law, but still worth considering. Many experts recommend motion detector alarms, which alert you when your fence is breached or when the water in your pool is disturbed.

A pool cover is also a good idea, as long as it is strong enough that children can't fall through.

[WEB EXTRA: The best pool alarms according to 'Good Housekeeping']

And it goes without saying: keep your eye on children every second they're in the water. Research shows that kids in trouble use all their energy just to stay afloat. They often cannot call out for help.

[WEB EXTRA: Safety tips from PoolSafety.gov]

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