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Lamber: Ahead of Labor Day, know the law about backyard pool safety as 2023 has already turned deadly

photo of Marc Lamber who is discussing pool safety in Phoenix
Marc Lamber, above, is a Martindale Hubbell AV Preeminent-rated trial attorney and public safety advocate. (File Photos/DigitalFreePress.com)
By Marc Lamber | Point of View

A chilling increase in drowning incidents, including toddlers, has cast a foreboding, yet preventable shadow over the greater Phoenix area this summer. Swim season is far from over. To date, 12 tragic drowning deaths and another 17 close calls have painted a grim picture, reminding every resident to sit up, take note, and prioritize safety.

The anguish of a recent incident still lingers. On Aug. 6, an unattended toddler spent five fatal minutes in a pool, leading to respiratory arrest and ultimately on Aug. 21, death. On Aug. 23, a 5-year-old boy was pulled from a pool in Goodyear and taken to a hospital, his condition unknown.

The alarming fact remains: Drowning stands as the top cause of death for children aged 1-4 in the U.S. In Arizona—where pools are as ubiquitous as the blazing sun — children are drowning at nearly double the national rate.

But how can we curb this deadly trend?

Arizona’s laws have prescribed rigorous standards for pool barriers, such as fencing and gates, especially for homes housing children below six.

Here’s what every homeowner should know if they have a pool deeper than 18 inches and wider than 8 inches.

  • There must be a mandatory 5-foot-tall enclosure.
  • There must be no gaps in the barrier that would let through a 4-inch diameter object.
  • The barrier should be a minimum of 20 inches from the water.
  • Gates must self-close and self-latch with the latch at least 54 inches above the ground and a release mechanism no less than 5 inches from the top of the gate or be secured by a padlock that requires a key or electric opener which can have the latch at any height.

However, localities in Pima County may have additional or varied rules. It’s paramount to check your local municipality’s regulations if you’re considering installing a pool or moving into a home with one.

Laws and fences are just part of the solution. Constant vigilance remains crucial. The age-old saying, “Two seconds is too long,” is not to be taken lightly. A momentary lapse in attention can lead to irrevocable loss. Many of this year’s incidents might have been avoided by adhering to pool barrier standards and, more importantly, by never letting our guard down.

Additionally, with the rising incidences, ensuring adequate homeowners’ or renters’ insurance is crucial. Different pools—whether inground, above ground, or portable—require different coverages. It’s advisable for homeowners and renters alike to consult their insurance agents, ensuring they’re adequately covered.

And, in the unfortunate aftermath of a pool-related mishap? Legal expertise can be invaluable. A personal injury lawyer can guide affected families through the maze of legal, medical and insurance concerns. Complying with Arizona’s pool regulations and constant supervision can ensure that every splash is one of joy, not sorrow.

Editor’s note: Marc Lamber is a Martindale Hubbell AV Preeminent-rated trial attorney and public safety advocate. A director at Fennemore, Mr. Lamber chairs the Personal Injury Practice Group and has been featured in national and local media.

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