One on One with Eric Lupton: Tips to Lower the Risk of Pool Drownings
Drowning is the top accidental killer of 1 to 4 years olds and Eric Lupton, chief executive of Pool Saver Fence Systems Inc, with over 20 years of pool safety experience, aims to reduce those statistics. Though cerebral palsy has left him in a wheelchair, Lupton continues to run a successful pool fencing company dedicated to protecting children from accidental drownings by keeping little feet on solid ground.
Q: Your pool fencing company has humble beginnings.
A: My father was already doing baby proofing for houses where he would crawl around on his hands and knees to find out what kids can get into. He quickly realized that pools are the most dangerous area of the home. He started manufacturing pool safety fences in our garage. My mom would take care of my younger brother and me during the day and sew the mesh at night. My dad would get up around 3 a.m. for a newspaper route to use as his marketing budget. The rest of the day he would build pool fences. The Florida company has expanded to 70 dealers around the United States including Los Angeles and San Diego with 15 more in additional countries. Life Saver Pool Fence are made in California.
Q: What are common misunderstandings about accidental drownings?
A: Every parent I’ve talked to who has lost a child to drowning said I didn’t think it would happen to me. I see it in posts on social media where parents’ state I don’t need extra layers of protection because I watch them all the time. Those are the ones that terrify me the most. How many times have you heard stories of parents finding crayon murals in their dining room wall or flour spilled all over the floor after they stepped away for a moment? Parents with these types of stories are lucky their children got into the peanut butter instead of opening the back door and getting into the pool.
Q: Is it true that most children who drown were last seen inside the house no where near the pool?
A: Unfortunately this is true. One study shows that parents had last seen their child less than 5 minutes before discovering them in the pool. Another study showed a certain percentage of children were last seen in their room sleeping. Imagine a scenario watching your 3-year-old sleeping in bed, you leave to go do something and check back in 5 minutes and the toddler had woke up and made it to the back door in that time span. No parent, no matter how vigilant, can possibly stop that kind of accident without additional layers of protection in place.
Q: How is the new pool safety law improved?
A: It requires additional safety devices to be in place. The law in California is fantastic and by far the best pool safety law in the country right now. It uses the layers of protection philosophy we adhere to in our company. They allow seven choices for protecting your home and two must be chosen. The original 1996 California Pool Safety Act required all new swimming pools constructed at single-family homes to be equipped with at least one of the following: a permanent fence, pool cover, exit alarms or self-closing devices on all doors providing access to the pool. In 2006 the list was expanded to include removable mesh fencing and pool alarms. Now California State Law SB 442, effective since January this year, requires new and remodeled residential pools to install two safety devices. A home inspector must also include in their report which of the two safety devices the pool or spa has at the point of sale.
Q: Name some features that make good fencing.
A: Fencing must have aluminum poles instead of fiberglass, which can splinter over time. Border material that goes around the mesh should have 4 layers of stitching for enough strength. It’s important you buy fencing that is supported by a company with longevity in the industry. This way you know it will be taken care of since most pool fences have a lifetime warranty against defects.
Q: You mentioned your layers of protection philosophy. What is the most important?
A: Parent supervision is the most important. This means always watching your child. If having a pool party, it means assigning someone to only watch the pool as a lifeguard, then handing the “baton” to somebody else in 15-minute shifts. Olympic winner Bodie Miller’s toddler daughter drowned recently during a party at their neighbor’s home. What probably happened is a scenario that turned tragic. A lot of adults were around and a psychological phenomenon called “confusion of responsibility” often happens. It is where everybody else thinks someone is watching the kids. Mom thinks dad is watching, dad thinks mom is watching. In reality no one is. Kids are more likely to drown with a lot of adults around than one supervising.
Q: When supervising pool activity, what does drowning really look like?
A: Drowning doesn’t look like what most people think. On TV you see people crying for help. Real drowning looks nothing like it. All they are trying to do is get air. They will enter a state where they are vertical underneath the water with a blank look on their face with hands and feet in motion like trying to climb a ladder. There is no splashing, no crying for help. If a child goes underwater, you can’t hear them. It is silent and fast. Drowning happens within a couple of minutes. A child can drown just a few feet away from their parents and that’s something we are hoping everyone can avoid by being as safety conscious as possible.