Tragedy spurs effort to strengthen pool safety laws

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - 88 children drowned in Florida in 2018. The year prior, two-year-old Kacen Howard drowned after he bypassed a defective pool fence at a family friend's home.

Kacen's tragic death spurred new legislation that would increase safety standards for residential pools. (WJHG/WECP)

Kacen's tragic death spurred new legislation that would increase safety standards for residential pools.

A routine trip to run errands quickly turned into a nightmare for April Philips and Brittany Howard.

Howard’s two-year-old son Kacen was left with an adult at Philip’s home.

“Their son Kacen opened the sliding glass door, bypassed the weak defective pool fence that surrounded the pool and fatally drowned,” said Philips at a town hall meeting in the city of Oldsmar in 2018.

Kacen would have turned three the following day.

The tragedy spurred Kacen’s mother and her friend to action.

“We must instill laws, guidelines, education, and awareness in the adults of today so that we can save the children who will be the adults of tomorrow,” said Philips.

The result is a bill named aptly named the Kacen’s Cause Act.

The legislation would beef up Florida’s pool safety laws by requiring new pools to have at least two safety measures installed.

The bill would also require the two safety measures to be installed on a pool if a home is sold.

Currently, only one is required.

“In my former career as a firefighter I had to pull kids out of pools and 20 years later it still bothers me. I don't want to see a mother or a father or a sister or a brother or a neighbor to have to go through that tragedy of seeing a kid drown in their pool in their backyard,” said bill sponsor Senator Ed Hooper.

New pools could have any combination of five safety measures.

A pool cover, fence or alarms in the pool itself.

There's also the option of self-latching doors or alarms on the doors and windows with access to the pool.”

If passed into law, violators could face up to a $500 fine or would be required to take a drowning education course.

Last year the bill didn’t receive a hearing in the House, but Senator Ed Hooper has vowed to file the bill every year he’s in office.

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