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Backyard pools are a source of relaxation, but they also need attention before and after a storm. The News-Press

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Homeowners with pool enclosures damaged by Hurricane Irma need to install a temporary barrier sooner rather than later.

Collier County has policies for replacing home pool enclosures, and points out it needs to be a priority for safety when it comes to repairs.

State building codes require residential pools and outdoor pools have barriers for safety, and the requirement is enforced by the county, said county spokeswoman Connie Dean.

The county does not have data on how many pool cages or fences were damaged by Irma, she said.

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In essence, the county’s building plan review and inspection division says a homeowner can erect temporary contractor safety mesh around the pool until long-term repairs can be made. Even an empty pool can create a safety risk when no pool barrier is in place, according to the county. Safety mesh can be purchased at any home improvement store.

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Homeowners' liability for neglecting to erect a temporary barrier to an exposed pool after damage to the cage or screen falls under state or local jurisdiction, and the rules vary from state to state, said Elizabeth Klinefelter, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

A State Farm spokeswoman for Florida said each claim is handled based on its merits when there is an accident or drowning after a homeowner failed to protect an exposed pool.

“Generally, a loss of this type qualifies for liability coverage, but the final decision is determined by the facts of the loss and the results of the investigation,” said Michal Brower, the State Farm spokeswoman. “Any law pertaining to pools would be considered as part of the investigation.”

Preventing accidental drowning among children is the goal for temporary and long-term barriers.

“You would never own a car without a seat belt,” said Paula DiGrigoli, executive director of the NCH Safe & Healthy Children’s Coalition in Collier County, which has a multifocused campaign to improve child health and well-being. “You should never own a pool without a fence.”

Since 2000 there have been 42 deaths among children from accidental drownings in Collier. The most recent child death in a pool occurred just before the Fourth of July when a 4-year-old drowned in a neighbor’s pool.

The state Department of Health does not have historical data on drownings linked to inadequate pool enclosures or barriers.

Getting help to pool owners with damage from Irma is a top priority, DiGrigoli said.

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After getting a temporary barrier installed while a long-term repair is in the works, pool owners need to talk with neighbors who have children to be extra-vigilant, she said.

The coalition also has door alarms that it will give to homeowners with children, and they don’t have to have a pool. The door alarms come in packages of two; call the coalition at 239-624-4033. The alarms are available due to a donation of the Kwanis Club of Greater Collier.

Statewide since the beginning of 2017, there have been 58 drownings among children, with two drownings occurring recently, DiGrigoli said. One of the recent deaths was in St. Lucie County when a 5-year-old drowned in the family pool. The drowning was not related to Hurricane Irma, according to the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission studied pool drownings in 2012 and found that almost 300 children younger than 5 drown in pools and spas annually. That is 75 percent of the almost 400 fatalities of children younger than 15.

More than 4,100 children  younger than 5 suffer submersion injuries that require emergency room treatment. For 77 percent of swimming pool accidents, the victims are missing for five minutes or less when they are found.

For long-term pool cage and screen enclosure repairs, no building permit is required when the damage is less than 25 percent, according to Collier’s policy. No permit is required to re-screen a screen enclosure.

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A permit is required when the cage damage is more than 25 percent and less than 50 percent. But it can be repaired to the Florida building code standards that were in place when it was constructed, with the same materials and loading.

Pool cages that are damaged more than 50 percent need to meet new pool barrier and screen enclosure standards that meet the fifth edition of Florida Building Code requirements.

Spot surveys will be required before a certificate of completion is issued. Permitted repair work and the construction of a new pool barrier or screen enclosure must be done by a licensed contractor or as an owner-builder, as defined by state law.

For more information, call the county’s Growth Management Department at 239-252-2400. To apply for a building permit online, see http://cvportal.colliergov.net/cityviewweb.

 

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