Rants, Recipes and Ramblings

Pool Drownings

Published in Az Republic “My Turn Colum” Spring 2002

Another day, another body, another mother cries. Splash. Splash. Splash.  As the year turns from school to summer I am forced to once again be reminded of the void in education, caring and concern that we as a society seem to have for many of those that are least able to care for themselves.

The names and circumstances of the tiny victims scream at us from the Newspaper, the TV and the Radio and still we really only give lip service to finding a solution. More fences we cry. Better supervision we plead. But still the bodies drop. Splash. Splash. Splash.

Fences are installed with new pools and erected around existing ones and still the death toll mounts.  Pool alarms are sold, self-closing gates are installed but still we hear the horrid sound. Splash. Splash. Splash.

Pools and the sound of splashing water are supposed to be a joyous part of summer life. But for far too many families those sounds and images are forever linked with pain, sorrow and regret. It does not have to be this way.

Simple and effective efforts can begin to turn the tide so that you, your neighbor or your friends do not have to bear the scars of losing one so close. It is a change that does not require government intervention or legislative mandate. But can simply start as a ground swell that could show the rest of the country how much we, as citizens, care about each other.

Five years ago I was a partner/investor in a Pool Construction company that sought to deal with this problem and we really felt that what we were doing could make a difference. It was a fairly inexpensive solution too (how do you place a value on piece of mind and a clear conscience?) and we thought the idea and concepts were so revolutionary that we wanted to freely share it with others. We could not stomach the thought of turning on the evening news or opening the morning paper to read or hear about the loss or injury to a child of a family we had come to know and care about during the construction of their pool.

We took the idea to the big Pool Builders. Not interested they said. “It impacts the bottom line”, who knew they cared so little. We took the story to the media. Not interested they said. “How would we fill the time on our newscasts or the column inches in the paper if not for the sight of parents weeping”, who knew they only wanted to report not solve.

What is this revolutionary idea you ask. Simple we say. Care about your fellow man. Invest back into the community. We teamed up with the American Red Cross to provide as a no cost service to all of our customers a visit by a Red Cross certified water safety instructor to teach both water safety and CPR to all the members of the family. Yes, the pool had a fence. Yes, the doors and gates were self-closing and self-latching but now we had helped arm the family to actively defend themselves in the event the inconceivable happened to them. They were now equipped with knowledge, a life ring and a safety hook. They could look forward with anticipation and not apprehension to enjoying and not dreading that expensive investment that they had just put into their backyard. Some of the other Pool Builders have since added this “service” to their menu of paid options (hey look another profit center!) but how many families have been forced to pick between water safety (accidents only happen to other people!) and a basketball hoop (that first pool party sure will be fun!).

As someone that has performed CPR for “real” more than 20 times (albeit in a Hospital setting) I can dispute the naysayers that this will make a difference. Granted, years may pass before you find yourself called upon to use this knowledge but at least you will have a frame of reference to start from while on the phone with the 911 operator who can help you shake the cobwebs from your mind and start this life saving procedure while you are waiting for the professionals to arrive and take over.

Pool and Home Builders, Realtors and the Media could lead the way if they only would. But I fear that the desire to increase profits and to have a story to tell will continue to be their only concern. The cost for caring is really quite cheap. It only cost our little company (80+ pools a year) $100.00 to have a Red Cross representative visit, instruct and provide the family with the equipment they needed to help them enjoy their new creation with an increased sense of empowerment. Our little company generated $1,400.000.00 in sales and the price for our piece of mind was only $8,000.00, just a tiny fraction of a percent.

If the bigger Pool companies, large Homebuilders and leading Realtors teamed up they could drive the cost down even further with their economies of scale.  Maybe this column can serve to do what they in their silence refused to do those many years ago by shaming them into true customer service and being good corporate citizens

Alas however, I fear that we will continue to hear the anguished wail of families and firefighters crying as they pull the little bodies from the water. Splash. Splash. Splash.

David W. Riddle
Mesa, Arizona

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