Ed Hooper files pool safety bill in response to drowning death of toddler
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The bill would require pools to have at least two of the state's listed safety measures in place.

Sen. Ed Hooper filed a bill last week to require stricter pool safety measures, inspired by the drowning death of a young boy.

The bill (SB 124) is called the Kacen’s Cause Act named after Kacen Howard, who drowned in his family’s pool a day before his third birthday in 2017. In response to the tragedy, his mother, Brittany Howard, worked to advocate for more effective safety requirements, resulting in the Kacen’s Cause Act.

Hooper, who represents voters in House District 16 in Pasco County, sponsored similar legislation in the 2020 session. That bill (SB 244) and its House companion (HB 229) died in committee.

The bill would alter current Florida codes to require that pools have at least two of the state’s listed safety measures in place. Under current law, the implementation of only one is required. Drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death behind motor vehicle crashes for children, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 

One code details fence specifications that require a 4-foot mesh fence around an outward swinging, self-closing, self-latching gate that is separate from any other fence, wall or other enclosure surrounding the yard.

Other options require that all doors and windows with direct access to the pool are equipped with an exit alarm and that doors with direct access to the pool have a self-closing, self-latching device with a release mechanism of a certain height. Pool owners can also install a swimming pool alarm that sounds an alarm upon detection of an accidental or unauthorized entrance into the water.

The requirement of an additional code seeks to ensure that if one safety precaution fails, another will prevent an accident. In Kacen’s case, the pool had a fence around it, but it was too weak and failed to prevent the toddler from falling into the water.

The bill also prohibits a property owner from selling a house with a swimming pool without meeting the new requirements.

Hooper, who represents portions of Pasco and Pinellas counties, filed the bill on Friday, and if passed, it would be effective Oct. 1, 2021.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected].


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