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Are Pool Alarms Effective In Preventing Child Drowning Deaths?

The temperate in southern Nevada facilitates swimming pool enjoyment for almost the entire calendar year. Many homeowners in Las Vegas and throughout Clark County take advantage of these conditions by building their own pools in their backyards.

If you’re one of these families, be sure to take appropriate measures to prevent accidental drownings. One option is a swimming pool alarm system. But just how effective are these pool alarms?

The Consumer Product Safety Commission conducted a study to determine the reliability of these pool alarm systems. The study looked at two distinct types of pool alarms: those with surface sensors and those which incorporate subsurface sensors. Surface sensors float on top of the water surface, while subsurface sensors are mounted to the side of the pool a few inches below the waterline. Both are equipped with remote receivers that are mounted inside the home and which sound an alarm if the sensors are activate by moving water – such as when a small child falls into the pool.

How did these systems fare?

One of the main goals of the testing was to determine if either type of alarm system recorded false positives – that is, if they emitted alarms when the water was disturbed by natural forces such as wind, rain, or falling debris (like leaves or pinecones). The study found that the subsurface sensors operated more reliably and with fewer false positives than the surface sensors did.

However, the study concluded that pool alarms should not be used as a replacement for other types of safety measures (such as constant adult supervision or effective pool fencing). Broadly speaking, the test showed an alarm response time of between 7 and 30 seconds if the distance between alarm sensor and the entry point of the water disturbance (i.e. where a child would fall in) was 35 feet or less. However, when it is at distances greater than 35 feet, alarm response times were substantially delayed.  Some systems even failed to activate until two minutes after the child fell in!

Considering that a child can drown to death in the span of five minutes, the delayed response time could mean the difference between a child surviving the accident or perishing due to a lack of oxygen.

In short, pool alarm systems should be viewed as a complementary safety device as opposed to a primary one. Therefore, if your pool has an alarm system but no other safety measures are taken, you may be found liable in a wrongful death lawsuit if a child were to drown in your pool.