St. Petersburg, Florida -- It is that time of year in Florida when families are poolside and children want to go swimming, but parents need to be aware of water safety rules that will allow for a perfect day at the pool.
Two children died in a Tampa Hospital after nearly drowning last Friday. They were cousins; one was 18 months old and the other was two years old. Another 3-year-old child nearly drowned in Brooksville on Sunday afternoon and another 5-year-old boy drowned in Gibsonton on Sunday.
Dan Aksel's 2-year-old son, Jake, nearly drowned in 1986 at their house pool in Fort Lauderdale.
He was not aware of water safety at the time and has since become a big advocate.
"It's common sense and you find yourself saying, 'Why didn't I think of that?'" said Aksel.
His son survived but the damage was done.
"He was profoundly retarded," said Aksel. "Some days you could swear you were seeing perfectly into his soul through his eyes and then a second later his eyes would shoot off in different directions."
Jake died in his sleep about nine years later.
After the near drowning, Aksel quickly became associated with other parents whose children had suffered near drownings. He became president of a group called POND, Parents Of Near Drownings, and also a member of a water safety organization during the 1990s in Fort Lauderdale. He talked with hundreds of parents from all over the country about swimming pool safety.
In October 2000, Florida law instated The Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act (Chapter 515, Florida Statutes.) It requires one of the following pool safety measures for pools built after October 1, 2000:
-A pool fence with self-closing, self-latching gate, enclosing the pool and providing no direct access to it.
-An approved pool cover.
-Alarms on all doors and windows leading out to the pool.
-All doors providing direct access from the home to pool to have a self-closing, self-latching device with a release mechanism no lower than 54 inches above the floor.
The Department of Health recommends, at a minimum, using a combination of the barriers described above to help ensure your pool is equipped with approved safety features. Please see the Requirements Page to learn more about the Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act.
The information above is provided from the Florida State Department of Health at:
It also states Florida is ranked number one in unintentional drowning deaths.
Aksel, who now lives in Oregon with his wife, and was in New Port Richey one weekend in May to help his elderly mother move out, still hurts to hear about other children drowning or nearly drowning in pools.
"It's so simple to follow common sense," said Aksel. "We all have these lapses in supervision. Maybe you walked out to the mailbox and were not watching your toddler for a moment, or had to use the bathroom, or were cleaning up the mess your child just made, whatever it was the only way to cope is to say, the child made the decision to get into the water, it is not our faults, and we must not think of ourselves as bad parents. It easy to let it eat away at you forever and let others judge you, but it wasn't my wife's fault and it was not my fault. It was a horrible, horrible, accident that should have been easily prevented."
He recommends a fourth wall; meaning do not have direct access from your house to your pool. Have another gate that prevents the child form getting into the home.
"Also alarms are helpful because as soon as the pool gate alarm goes off that means the gate has been opened and you can hear it and run to your child before he falls into the water," said Aksel. "A double latch is needed on all doors that open to the pool. One at the bottom that you must open simultaneously with the one on top that is at more than four feet above the ground – high enough to keep your child out."