Hillsborough County inspectors hope to make a splash when it comes to swimming pool safety

School is almost out for the summer, and many families may be spending their days by the pool, which is why officials in Hillsborough County want to help keep everyone safe near the water.

On Friday morning, the county is hosting the first Safe Pools Day Tampa Bay event. It is teaming up with the cities of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City, and the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County for the event.

Starting at 10 a.m., code enforcement officers from each jurisdiction will visit condos, apartment complexes and other common-area pools to make sure they meet safety standards. They’ll look at fencing, signage, drain covers, sanitation and more.

File: Swimming pool with fence

File: Swimming pool with fence

"We’re never too far from some body of water, by the pools especially," Joe Gross, Hillsborough County Code Enforcement Director, said. "We do unfortunately lead the country in drowning deaths especially with very, very young children, so it’s important that if you have a pool that it be secure at all times and also meet some of the other code criteria."

Code enforcement officers can issue fines if there are violations, but say their goal is education. May is National Water Safety Month. The Children’s Board will also give water safety tips to help prevent pool injuries and drownings.

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According to the Florida Department of Health, from 2018 to 2020 combined, Florida ranked the highest in the country for unintentional drowning death rate among children one to four years old with 6.24 deaths per 100,000 population. Florida also had the highest unintentional drowning death rate among 0 to nine-year-olds in the country with 3.19 deaths per 100,000 population.

A swim instructor teaches a child in the pool.

A swim instructor teaches a child in the pool. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the leading cause of death for children one to four years old in the United States.  

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Erin Seal-Grande, co-owner of Seal Swim School, says it’s vital to teach your kids about water safety from a young age.

A child in a swimming pool.

A child in a swimming pool. 

"The more opportunities you give your child in the water with lessons, with understanding and respecting the water, with being around the water, it’s important, especially here in Florida," she explained.

According to the Florida Department of Children and Families, 36 children have drowned so far this year in Florida. In 2021, the state hit a grim record. Ninety-nine children drowned, up from 69 reported in 2020.

The Children’s Board says with hurricane season starting June first, they want parents to add pool safety to their hurricane checklists, especially if a family is evacuating to a home with a pool.