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Tragedy spurs effort to strengthen pool safety laws

88 children drowned in Florida in 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The 2017 drowning of 2-year-old Kacen Howard, who bypassed a defective pool fence at a family friend's home, and 88 other children drownings the following year spurred new legislation that would increase safety standards for residential pools.

April Philips and Brittany Howard left Kacen with an adult at Philips' home while they ran errands.

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

Kacen would have turned 3 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,” Philips said.

The resulting bill, named the Kacen’s Cause Act, would beef up Florida’s pool safety laws by requiring new pools have at least two safety measures installed and require those safety measures in place before 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,” said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Ed Hooper. "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."

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 the measure becomes law, violators could face up to a $500 fine or would be required to take a drowning education course.

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