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The Hawaiian state government has partnered with a pool and spa association to research pool owners’ knowledge of safety.

“It’s a win/win,” said Andy Mertz, past president of the Swimming Pool Association of Hawaii. “It helps the community and helps get the profile of SPA out, showing that we are a professional organization.”

While Hawaii’s rate of pool drownings is very low — about one child under the age of 4 each year — the state’s Department of Health made it a goal to reduce that figure. Hawaii’s DOH wants to launch a safety-education campaign, but believes more must be learned about pool owners first.

“We thought there may be a lot of pool owners who don’t have any idea what is required of them,” said Stanley Michaels, child and adolescent injury prevention coordinator with the Hawaiian DOH. “This is particularly true of those who bought houses with pools already on the property. So we wanted some real base-line information.” But Michaels had a tiny budget and no way of determining which homes contained pools.

So he approached SPA, a 10-year-old association for service technicians on the island of Oahu. The group will target pool owners and distribute the surveys. The other islands don’t have an association, so the project had to be restricted to Oahu.

The survey asks five questions: whether the pool is enclosed with a fence; whether gates and house doors have safety latches or alarms; if there are children under the age of 7 in the house; if those youngsters know how to swim; and if the homeowners would like information on the latest in pool safety.

There’s also a section outlining the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, stating that while only required of commercial pools, entrapment prevention should be considered by homeowners.

“[Judging by the surveys completed so far], we’ve got an uphill educational battle,” Michaels said. “Most pool owners don’t realize … that they would need a lock on their gate or a latch on their door to keep children from getting to the pool.”

SPA members also have been asked to check their customers’ yards and take an unofficial tally of how many have outdated or broken drain covers, nonfunctioning gates and other safety hazards. “In addition, we can tell our customers, ‘You should fix this gate. You should get these things taken care of,’” said SPA President Jon DeLuca. “Then the customer can decide how to proceed.”

This won’t be the only time Michaels enlists help from the business sector.

“My next phone call after all this is done will be to call insurance companies until I find one who will help me,” he said. “I’m looking for sponsorship, someone who’s willing to write a check so that I can survey the rest of the pool owners in the state, or do an educational campaign.”