SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. – Drowning kills about 8 Snohomish County residents every year. Nationally, more than one in four drowning deaths is a child younger than 15. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States and kills more toddlers 1 to 4 years old than anything but birth defects.
To help prevent drowning accidents, the Snohomish Health District sends inspectors to check 480 regulated swimming pools and hot tubs for safety and health issues. About half are open year around, and the other approximate half are open in the summer only.
“Regulated” pools and spas are those facilities that are permitted under the Snohomish Health District Sanitary Code, such as swimming pools at hotels, schools, apartments, and health clubs. The inspectors do not oversee beach swimming areas, rivers, lakes, or pools at single-family residences.
Among the items on a long list, they look for balanced water chemistry and adequate disinfection, water clear enough to see the main drain, safety barriers in good repair, and water temperature. If the water is too cloudy to see the drain, the inspector will close the pool immediately until the problem is corrected.
“If we can’t see the drain, then the lifeguard and other swimmers can’t see anyone who might be in trouble down there – it’s serious business,” said Bruce Straughn, senior sanitarian in the Health District’s water recreation program. “When we find any violations, we work with the pool operator right away to get the problems corrected as quickly as possible.”
The Health District considers pool operators to be partners in public health and safety for the community.
Straughn said noncritical violations include poor ventilation or lighting, loose handrails on ladders and stairs, an unlocked pump room, and worn-slippery pool surfacing around the pool or spa, or items that can be remedied on the spot. Operators call for a reinspection when all corrections have been made.
To support ongoing safe operation, the Health District inspects school pools four times a year, year-around pools three times a year, and seasonal pools twice a summer season.
Read more about drowning prevention here: http://www.cdc.gov/Features/drowningprevention/
The Snohomish Health District is the local public health agency for Snohomish County. Its programs and services are devoted to creating a healthier and safer community through disease prevention, health promotion, and protection from environmental threats. Learn more about the work of the Health District at www.snohd.org.