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Swimming pool safety: be vigilant


Are the alarms effective and sufficient against the risk of drowning? Zoom ...

July 2008, a thunderclap in the small world of the swimming pool: the government removed from the market five immersion detection alarms. Fixed on the edge of the pool, they are supposed to trigger in case of accidental fall. However, of six models tested by an independent laboratory, only one is irreproachable. The others do not spot the fall of a mass of 6 kg, supposed to represent a child of a few months. The Consumer Safety Commission (CSC) is calling for the exclusion of such alarms from mandatory protective devices (see below). In vain: it only gets a hardening of the standard to which alarm manufacturers must comply. Of the five models complained of, the Directorate General of Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control has made a recall of the most defective, Chinese import ("Alpool JB 2005"), but invites the owners of the other four to keep them in office . "There is no reason to remove them", can be read on its website (www.dgccrf.bercy.gouv.fr).

The acclaimed alarm

Pool builders would have done well this controversy. The sector, which experienced in 2008 an unprecedented slowdown in its activity (minus 20%), organizes its response. Prohibit immersion detection alarms? "This would deprive those with the least money of an effective protection system, which saves lives each year," said Joelle Pulinx-Challet, Federation of Pool Professionals (FPP).

This type of alarm, acclaimed by 1 in 4 people when choosing a security system, indeed costs much less than a barrier or cover. "And then, it's often the only solution when you have a free-form pool, sloping ground or loose soil, not to mention the lack of aesthetic damage," adds the spokesperson.

" No risk does not exist "

At present, it is estimated that only 70% of swimming pools are equipped with a safety system, which has been mandatory since 2006. Imperfectly respected, the law nevertheless seems to have contributed to the fall in the number of fatal accidents among children: 32 cases in 2000, 25 in 2003, 21 in 2006 and, according to our information (no official figures), about ten in 2007. "The prevention campaigns have had a great influence on this decline, notes Joëlle Pulinx-Challet. No risk does not exist." The presence of any security device may result in a false sense of security and a loosening of alertness. Hence the message of prevention hammered by the government and relayed by manufacturers: to prevent drowning, nothing replaces the monitoring of an adult before, during and after swimming.

In 2006 (latest official figures): 21 children drowned in a private swimming pool, 13 during swimming and 8 after falling out of the water. For the latter cases, the safety device was not compliant with the regulations (simple cover or barrier too low), or nonexistent, or inoperative (open barrier, alarm disabled).

The four mandatory devices: since 2006, pool owners must install one of the following security systems, under penalty of a heavy fine: