Pool fences

Monday, July 19, 2004

Splashing in the cool water of a swimming pool means summer fun for plenty of area children and families. Yet many area residents are learning that their inexpensive inflatable pools are skirting city regulations and putting them at risk.

The pools cost about $250 and are available at stores everywhere. The pools are fairly shallow and don't require a lot of maintenance or site preparation like a permanent pool would. The inflatable pools are an inexpensive way for families to cool off during the summer.

Some area communities are being more cautious than carefree when it comes to these pools. Jackson officials are sending letters to pool owners explaining that the pool violates city code. Cape Girardeau officials know that the pools exist but haven't issued any notices to property owners yet.

But the issue isn't necessarily just alerting people to look at city code. The pool manufacturers advise buyers to check city ordinances before inflating and filling the pool. Few people do. And if they did, they would realize that the pools require a fence and gate with a special lock. In Cape Girardeau and Jackson, pools that are 24 inches or deeper must have at least a 4-foot fence around them. Pools that are 4 feet or taller don't need fences if they have a ladder that can be removed and locked. In Scott City, all pools over 18 inches deep need to be secured by fences.

The pools become a liability risk for property owners who don't have fences surrounding them. And children who are left unattended for even just a few minutes can fall into pools and drown.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, drowning rates are declining, but drowning still remains the second-leading cause of death for children under age 14. In 2000, there were an average of nine unintentional drownings a day, according to the CDC's Web site.

While city codes requiring fences around what many regard as wading pools may seem unreasonable, they are the current law in most municipalities. Pool owners who think the codes go too far should contact elected city officials to see if changes are in order.

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