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Texas Bills Push for Water Safety

Court HouseTexas Bills Push for Water Safety
By Ben Thomas | 3.10.2011

Three drowning-prevention bills recently were introduced in the Texas legislature.

A House bill (H.B. 673) would require the state’s Parks and Wildlife Department to produce an instructional video on water safety. A Senate bill (S.B. 770) would designate April as the state’s official Water Safety Awareness Month, and another Senate bill (S.B. 771) would require alarm systems on certain residential pools.

“People across the state are going to be hearing a lot more about water-safety legislation this year,” said Douglas Dinkins, president of the Aquatic Professionals Education Council, a statewide pool and spa industry advocacy group. “We at APEC have always emphasized water safety and energy efficiency, but we’re working to make the pool industry and the public aware of new legislation more than ever before.”

S.B. 771 has already generated debate among pool professionals. If passed into law, the measure would require alarms on all doors providing access to a pool area “without an intervening enclosure” such as a lockable gate, as well as an alarm that detects “accidental or unauthorized entrance” into the pool or spa.

These requirements would apply to any single-family residential pool not surrounded by a self-locking enclosure, and any spa without a locking safety cover. In addition, any person or company who “constructs, installs or remodels” a pool would be required to provide written notification of the law to the consumer.

Several APEC members have objected to S.B. 771’s mandates, citing a lack of evidence that door alarms are effective safety measures. “The Red Cross of Texas and the Texas Children’s Hospital know that homeowners often disarm the alarms on the back door, because they consider them a nuisance,” Dinkins said.

Others in the industry argue that S.B. 771 places the burden of safety in the wrong hands.

“I feel that the homeowner should be more responsible for [layers of protection] than the pool builder,” said J.R. Richard, president/CEO of Richard’s Total Backyard Solutions in Houston, a Pool & Spa News Top Builder. “[A builder] can notify them of the issue, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to do anything about it.”

Meanwhile, S.B. 770 focuses on making Water Safety Awareness Month an official state observance. In previous years, charities and organizations across the state have celebrated the month of April with group swimming lessons and other public events. This bill aims to get the observance on the books, in the hope that even more facilities and groups will become aware of the month’s goals, and join the campaign for water safety awareness.

H.B. 673 addresses safety in another way — it would require the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to produce a video “suitable for use with high school students” that would focus on safe swimming in rivers, lakes and coastal waters. The bill would also require that the video be incorporated into the state’s requirements for driver education.

Though this bill does not mention pools specifically, APEC officials have confirmed that the organization supports the measure. “We want to get consumers educated about water safety,” Dinkins said.

Several other bills currently being discussed in the Texas legislature also pertain to the pool industry. A new Senate bill (S.B. 710) would require home sellers to disclose the presence of a “hazardous” main pool drain to buyers. In addition, a Senate bill designated S.B. 457 and a House bill known as H.B. 883 both mandate certain efficiency standards for residential pool pumps, pump motors and motor controls.

If passed, these measures would make Texas the latest state to adopt efficiency standards for pumps and motors, following the examples of others such as California, Florida and Arizona.

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