Reconsider Your Pool Safety
Two-year-old twins, Kaydan and Liam Aristhomene, died this June after drowning in their backyard pool in Sterling, Virginia. A family member discovered both children unconscious in the pool and sought help. Kaydan died the day of the incident. Liam was in critical condition was in critical condition for about two days before passing away. The incident is under investigation by the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, yet everything points to a tragic accident and no foul play.
This tragedy is a reminder of the risks inherent in residential pools. While parents and their children can safely enjoy having an above or in-ground pool, there are a number of precautions parents should take to reduce the chance of drownings or other injuries and to limit their civil liability. If a neighbor, cousin, or friend is injured in the pool, the homeowners could be at risk for a lawsuit or criminal charges.
Virginia Pool Laws
Federal, state, and local laws may apply to your backyard pool. If you have a pool, purchase a house with one, or intent to install one, look up your rights and duties immediately. If you do not obey the law or install common sense precautions, you could end up in trouble with the law.
When you have a swimming pool in your yard, you usually must have a barrier around it. Your yard cannot be entirely open for anyone who wants to come in and enjoy the pool. In many counties, the barrier must be at least 48 inches above grade. If your pool is above ground, the side of the pool can be a barrier if it meets the 48 inch requirement, however, the ladder must be removable. If it is not that tall, then the barrier can be attached to the top. There are additional rules regarding this barrier in relation to its climbability and any gaps between the barrier and the ground or pool. Be sure your barrier, whether it is a stone wall, wooden fence, or chain link meets these requirements. Your barrier should have an access gate, which meets the same requirements for the barrier. However, it should also be self-closing and self-latching and swing outward from the pool.
When the house is a part of your barrier around the pool, there are safety features that apply to your home. You need to have alarms on your door or windows that sound for at least 30 seconds and must be heard throughout the house.
Additional Safety Features
Even if you adhere to every federal, state, and local law regarding your residential pool, you may be better off if you consider additional safety features like:
- Cameras: It is best to have an adult supervising kids in the pool at all times. However, you can also consider putting in surveillance cameras for extra supervision. This enables another adult to keep an eye on what is going on or for you to keep watch if you have to run inside for a minute. However, keep in mind many camera systems have a delay so they should not be relied on. By the time you notice an issue, it will have been going on a minute or so already.
- Covers: Every drain in or around your pool should have a cover. Additionally, any outlets, switches, or other should have covers that keep them watertight and preferably flat against the ground or a wall. Also, have covers for your pools, hot tubs, and other water features for when they are not in use. Pool covers stop your kids from falling in when you are not around and can prevent drownings. Just make sure to purchase a pool cover that does not gap at the sides and can hold a considerable weight. Additionally, your child should not be able to remove it.
- Automatic lighting: Lighting in and around your pool is important for multiple reasons. It can help you see who is in your pool, which is essential if your children head outside at night. If you are all out for a nighttime swim, it ensures you can see where your kids are at all times. If you have automatic lights, this can also scare away trespassers.
Contact Us For Help
If a child is injured or drowns in your pool and you face criminal charges or a civil lawsuit, contact us at Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC in Leesburg right away. We have experience in a wide range of family and criminal matters, particularly when these two areas of the law intersect.