Written by
Scott Broden

A Tennessee law that took effect this month requires new swimming pools to include alarms, but not everyone is convinced it will prevent children from drowning.

Homeowners and pool installers face state mandates from "Katie Beth's Law," which is named for a 17-month-old who drowned
in a Cookeville residential swimming pool in 2009. The alarms make a sound when something heavier than 15 pounds enters
the water, and the law also applies to hot tubs and non-portable spas.

Alarms are generally sold separately and cost roughly $275, said Kevin Taylor, who works at Madison Swimming Pools in

The business has sold alarms for years but seen a fairly low number of sales.

"I don't see $250 to $275 being a deterrent, but we sell upper-end residential pools,'' Taylor said.

Brad's Pool Shop in Murfreesboro didn't stock the alarms before the law took effect. Owner Brad Abrams said he's so concerned about the requirement's effects that he has asked his lawyer to write up a disclaimer for his customers to sign to protect him should a child fall into one of his pools. There's no substitute for parental supervision, he said.

"I question how much of a difference it's going to make," Abrams said. "By having that in place, people are going to take a little less concern. If you put in an alarm, you have that false sense of security. I am not a big fan."

To comply with the law, the Murfreesboro City Council recently required city electrical inspectors to enforce the pool alarm

"This ensures the alarm is there and operable when we make our final electrical inspection," Codes Director Gary Whitaker
said. "We're going out making these inspections anyway."

His office has sent notices to local pool installers to make sure they're aware of the law.

Exemptions not liked

Scott Taylor, general manager of Family Leisure, a swimming pool retailer in Antioch, said the new law is positive
because it increases safety awareness.

"The biggest thing is that it adds work for the codes people,'' he said. "But I don't think it will deter sales or deter consumers. It should just give people a little more peace of mind to what they already have.''

The law allows too many exemptions, such as for the portable, blow-up pools available at big-box retailers, said Bruce
Comer, a manager for his family's Mid-State Swimming Pool Co. business in Murfreesboro.

"If they are going to keep the law like this on the books, they need to keep it universal," Comer said, adding that apartment complexes also are not covered. "There are so many loopholes and exclusions."

State Rep. Joe Carr, a Lascassas Republican, voted against a law he thought was a knee-jerk reaction.

"While well intended, the legislative action was overreaching and unnecessary in solving the problems," said Carr, who
doubts the alarm would have saved its namesake's life. "I was not persuaded that the technology would have done that. I'm
generally opposed to the legislature solving problems regarding isolated situations like that."

If the problem were systemic or chronic, then the legislature would have a responsibility to look at the issue, but there
wasn't enough evidence in this case, Carr said.

State Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, said he had concerns about costs in the legislation but decided to support it because it
promoted safety.

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The Dragonfly Story

Excerpted from the eulogy at Abbey Taylor's Celebration of Life Service

Below the surface of a quiet pond lived a colony of water bugs. They were happy, living far from the sun. But they noticed that occasionally, a member of their colony would climb up a lily stalk and disappear from sight, never to return. Where do you suppose she went? wondered a water bug.

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Pool Safety Tips

  • Use the Water Watchdog System to make sure children are always closely supervised in the pool area.

  • Remind kids to stay away from pool and hot tub drains.

  • Never dive into water less than 9 feet deep.

  • Keep gates to the pool area latched.

More water safety tips