Water safety tips are a priority to keep families safe this summer.

Now that summer is here, Hillsborough County launched Safe Pools Day Tampa Bay, which was aimed at educating families about practicing pool safety while they enjoy swimming this summer. Florida leads the nation in drowning deaths of children 4 years old or younger, and most of the deaths are preventable.

According to Hillsborough County Code Enforcement Director Joe Goss, his staff teamed up with the cities of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City and the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County for Safe Pools Day Tampa Bay on May 10. Code enforcement officers visited condominium, subdivision, apartment complex and other common-area pools to ensure they meet safety standards, including those outlined in the Hillsborough County Code. Staff looked for appropriate fencing, signage, drain covers, sanitation and more.

Goss also shared other tips for families through the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County and gave the following tips for water safety and how to help prevent pool injuries and drownings.

First, designate a ‘water watcher’ — an adult whose only job is to watch the children in the pool. Water watchers should be rotated about every 10 minutes. In addition, ensure that alarms are installed on any doors and gates leading to an at-home pool, and have a water alarm in the pool that goes off when someone enters the pool.

Goss also strongly encouraged parents to enroll children in swim lessons. Locally, the City of Tampa offers swim lessons for ages 6 months and older through the American Red Cross. Many local YMCAs also offer drowning-prevention programs.

“With summer just around the corner, it’s important to ensure that private home swimming pools are safe, secure and sanitary,” said Goss. “To prevent accidental drownings, all swimming pools, hot tubs and spas — regardless of when they were constructed — are required to have the proper fencing and safety barriers installed.”

If a pool enclosure has an access gate, it must be equipped with a self-closing and self-latching locking device. Homeowners can reduce their safety risk and avoid a citation by checking their functional access gate to ensure it meets the local standards. 

A clean swimming pool is a must as well. Pollen, leaves and other organic material can transform a backyard oasis into a murky green lagoon if not properly maintained. Residents should maintain pools and spas year-round and remove standing water pool and spa covers to prevent mosquitoes, bacteria and germs from breeding. 

Whether you swim at home or in a public pool, it’s everyone’s responsibility to be pool safe. If you witness a code violation at any swimming pool in unincorporated Hillsborough County, call code enforcement at 813-274-6600. For more information about water safety programs locally, visit www.tampaymca.org.

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Kelly Wise Valdes
Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.