In Florida, drowning is the leading cause of death of young children and is also a significant cause of death for medically frail elderly persons. Adult supervision is the key to accomplishing the objective of reducing the number of submersion incidents, and when lapses in supervision occur a pool safety feature designed to deny, delay, or detect unsupervised entry to the swimming pool, spa, or hot tub will reduce drowning and near-drowning incidents. In furtherance of this initiative, the Florida Legislature enacted the “Preston de Ibern/Mckenzie Merriam Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act” in 2000. See Chapter 515, Florida Statutes.

The Legislature required that all new residential swimming pools, spas, and hot tubs be equipped with at least one pool safety feature and required the Department of Health be responsible for producing its own or adopting a nationally recognized publication that provides the public with information on drowning prevention and the responsibilities of pool ownership.

Pool Safety Features

In order to pass a final inspection and receive a certificate of completion, a residential swimming pool must meet at least one of the following requirements relating to pool safety features: (a) the pool must be isolated from access to a home by an enclosure that meets the pool barrier requirements stated below; (b) the pool must be equipped with an approved safety pool cover; (c) all doors and windows providing direct access from the home to the pool must be equipped with an exit alarm that has a minimum sound pressure rating of 85 dB A at 10 feet; or (d) all doors providing direct access from the home to the pool must be equipped with a self-closing, self-latching device with a release mechanism placed no lower than 54 inches above the floor.

Anyone who fails to equip a new residential swimming pool with at least one pool safety feature as required above commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, except that no penalty shall be imposed if, within 45 days after arrest, issuance of a summons or a notice to appear, has equipped the pool with at least one safety feature and has attended a drowning prevention education program.

Pool Barrier Requirements

As discussed above on of the pool safety features is an approved pool barrier. A residential swimming pool barrier must have all of the following characteristics: (a) the barrier must be at least 4 feet high on the outside; (b) the barrier may not have any gaps, openings, indentations, protrusions, or structural components that could allow a young child to crawl under, squeeze through, or climb over the barrier; (c) the barrier must be placed around the perimeter of the pool and must be separate from any fence, wall, or other enclosure surrounding the yard unless the fence, wall, or other enclosure is situated on the perimeter of the pool, is being used as part of the barrier, and meets the barrier requirements of the statute; and, (d) the barrier must be placed sufficiently away from the water’s edge to prevent a young child or medically frail elderly person who may have managed to penetrate the barrier from immediately falling into the water.

The structure of an aboveground swimming pool may be used as its barrier or the barrier for such a pool may be mounted on top of its structure; however, such structure or separately mounted barrier must meet all barrier requirements of the statute. In addition, any ladder or steps that are the means of access to an aboveground pool must be capable of being secured, locked, or removed to prevent access or must be surrounded by a barrier that meets the requirements.

Gates that provide access to swimming pools must open outward away from the pool and be self-closing and equipped with a self-latching locking device, the release mechanism of the gate must be located on the pool side and placed so that it cannot be reached by a young child over the top or through any opening or gap. A wall of a dwelling may serve as part of the barrier if it does not contain any door or window that opens to provide access to the swimming pool. A barrier may not be located in a way that allows any permanent structure, equipment, or similar object to be used for climbing the barrier

Notice Provision for Pool Contractor/Home Builder

A licensed pool contractor, on entering into an agreement with a buyer to build a residential swimming pool, or a licensed home builder or developer, on entering into an agreement with a buyer to build a house that includes a residential swimming pool, must give the buyer a document containing the requirements of this chapter and a copy of the publication produced by the department under Section 515.31, Florida Statutes, which provides information on drowning prevention and the responsibilities of pool ownership.