A set of Florida bills regarding electrical safety in pools has gone a different direction, but the father behind it is taking his mission to the federal level.
On April 13, 2014, 7-year-old Calder Sloan was electrocuted in his family’s home pool, likely due to wiring issues. His father, Chris Sloan, has made it his mission to do what he can to protect others from experiencing the same tragedy.
“My son was a truly empathetic, special little boy and a great swimmer, and he did not deserve to die this way,” Sloan said. “The effect that he would have had, had he lived, would have been immense. ... So it is absolutely compulsory that we honor him and save other people from going through this kind of disaster.”
Last month, the state legislature introduced two companion bills addressing electrical safety in pools — Senate Bill 926 and House Bill 795, collectively referred to as the Calder Sloan Pool Safety Act. Modeled in part after code changes that already have gone into effect in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, the legislation would call for low-voltage lighting in new and renovated pools, require that home buyers receive a written warning about electrical hazards in pools, and that commercial pools be inspected every five years.
The pool industry said it favors making pools more electrically safe, but believed the language in the bills was not sufficient because it didn’t address the whole property, which also can impact pools, and because many precautions are covered in the National Electrical Code.
Last month, the House bill stalled when its first committee refused to hear it, citing an annual bill ranging from $500,000 to $2.1 million for commercial inspections. The Senate bill didn’t fare much better.
To keep the issue alive, Sen. Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood), author of the Senate bill, has added language to another piece of legislation — Florida’s annual “building code bill,” produced each year to update the building code. After consulting with industry officials, she placed an amendment requiring formation of the Calder Sloan Swimming Pool Electrical Safety Task Force to explore which safety measures should be instituted.
The intent is to review pool lighting, as well as bonding, grounding, and other aspects of the electrical system in and around the pool, said Jennifer Hatfield, FSPA’s government relations consultant and APSP director of government affairs.
“We want to make sure we do the right thing, so we need to make sure the experts sit down and look into this and we don’t do anything knee-jerk,” she said.
The House is expected to add similar language to its companion legislation.
Chris Sloan expressed some disappointment at the turn of events. “Clearly in politics you have to compromise, and there’s definitely tension between too little or too much,” he said. “... It’s a bit of a roller coaster because I fervently believe that lives need to be saved … and we’re trying the best we can not to have it watered down to where nothing’s accomplished or barely anything is.”
He intends to promote federal change as well and already has scheduled meetings with officials at that level, though he declined to provide details. While some have implied Sloan wants a law akin to the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, he said he is not seeking mandatory retrofits on existing pools, except those already undergoing renovation.
Like the industry, Sloan believes the issue is larger than low-voltage lights and lights with non-metallic fixtures. He believes greater consumer education should be instituted, such as through the real-estate disclosure statements. He also said consumers should be incentivized to have their homes thoroughly inspected, perhaps by insurance companies, which could offer discounts to those who take that step.
Sloan, owner of a television production company, said he doesn’t quite understand the resistance he has felt from the industry because many of the changes are not costly.
“It’s great business,” he said. “People are going to bring more business because they’re going to modify their pools. ... You’re going to have a revenue stream with inspections; you’re going to have people wanting to put new lighting in. … I feel like we’re helping the industry, not hurting it.”