It's the time of year when many of us step back into the pool, and safety should always be a top priority. But are pool alarms all they're cracked up to be?
With drownings still ranking as one of the leading causes of death among young children, many are turning to technology for help. What is good, and is it enough?
Per the most recent statistics, 14 children have died in pools thus far in Maricopa County in 2011.
Shop for a pool alarm now and you’ll find a dozen varieties, from expensive, custom systems which use sonar, to sensors which detect ripples on the surface, to armbands worn by children which set off a remote alarm if they get wet. The systems cost as little as $100, up to $15,000. Safety experts warn, however, many of the devices are unproven and haven’t been studied by safety groups as to their effectiveness.
Sonarguard, a pool alarm company claims its systems have saved the lives of nine children in the past decade.
Lori Schmidt, of the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona, said keeping children safe around water is best achieved by a combination of factors. The group advocates a barrier system including a pool fence and multi-latch doors. While an alarm can add an extra layer of protection, Schmidt said, there’s no substitute for basic supervision.
“Everybody believes they watch their kids, but if we really kept our eyes on them all the time, we'd all go a little bit nutty,” Schmidt said.
Studies show most children who are discovered in a backyard pool are found less than five minutes from when they were reported missing. The coalition said, in a majority of cases, the parents said the child was out of sight, “just a few seconds.”
With a barrier system, Schmidt said, the idea is to slow a wandering child down, so parents can take action before they wind up in the pool. She adds, however, many pool alarms become like car alarms, sounding off frequently until they’re largely ignored.
This is one of the scariest subjects that I ever have to address. I have handled a good many cases of neglect, involving a young child who lost their life by a pool-related incident. Indeed, too many.
There is no replacement for SUPERVISION. These devices can be helpful, but do not and cannot replace the eyes of an adult responsible for watching the children. All adults have a legal responsibility to watch their own children. If you are responsible for the children of another, you should certainly be no less careful.
Question: If one of these ‘warning devices’ fail, could the manufacturer be liable for any injuries that result?
Answer: Yes, but the degree of responsibility of a product manufacturer will likely be compared and contrasted by the degree of liability to the adult who failed to keep watch on the child who sustains injury. In Arizona, this is called “comparative negligence.”
If you have or use these devices, do not rely on them. As an extra warning measure, perhaps they are prudent, but should you come to rely on them, you are just asking for trouble that no adult and no parent ever wants to confront. I promise you, one of these types of cases is more than enough to teach you that water safety is one of the most important lessons you can practice with children.