Pool industry groups are joining together in Texas to push for new safety legislation.
Instead of focusing on drain covers and other layers of protection, this prospective law would require home buyers to watch a short video on drowning prevention when they purchase any house with a pool.
“We want to educate the consumer about water safety,” said Scott Waldo, vice president of the Aquatic Professionals Education Council, a pool and spa industry advocacy group. “We need to start being more proactive and get the information out there.”
2009 was a rough year for Texas with more than 100 child drownings, a record number for the state. In response, local charities and industry groups decided to increase focus on consumer awareness.
The loose coalition includes the Aquatic Professionals Education Council, the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals, the Independent Pool & Spa Service Association, the Houston Red Cross, and the Texas Children’s Hospital. All have contributed manpower and resources to the effort.
The initiative began when Waldo and his APEC colleagues started meeting with the Red Cross to discuss solutions to the state’s high drowning rate. They soon learned that the organization had an online video course on residential pool safety and maintenance.
The APEC members saw the potential for a more ambitious project, but knew that videos alone would never create the level of change they were seeking. Backed by legislation, it might raise consumers’ consciousness, but the industry veterans knew that if a bill was to stand any chance of passing, it would have to steer clear of making financial demands on the state.
“We all felt that the only way was an education bill because anything that has to do with the state spending money isn’t going to happen,” Waldo said. “An education bill doesn’t cost the state or the consumer.”
Requiring pool customers to watch a video on drowning could raise some eyebrows in the industry, but Douglas Dinkins, APEC’s president, said the response has been positive so far. “The builders I’ve talked with all agree that it would be better to be on the proactive side than the opposite side,” he said. “They want to address the issue, and work with the homeowners on safe swimming.”
Officials at the Red Cross and the Texas Children’s Hospital also were excited about the idea, and support grew among industry organizations, including APSP and IPSSA.
“We’re crafting the nuts and bolts of [the bill] now,” Dinkins said, “and then it’s going to go into the writing stage. We’re hoping to have something ready by the end of October.”
The bill’s final form likely will constitute a minor addition to the state’s home buying code. When purchasing a residence with a pool, consumers will sign an affidavit proving they were given the Red Cross safety video, or a similar one.
“You already have a bunch of documents to sign when you’re buying a home,” Dinkins said. “It’s not going to kill the Realtor to add a document that states, ‘There is a swimming pool in the backyard, and I [the homeowner] have watched the water safety video.’”
If all goes as planned, Sen. Leticia Van De Putte (Dem.-San Antonio) will introduce the bill in January at Texas’ legislative session.