Broward County is among five municipalities nationwide that have been awarded a government grant to bolster programs that keep children from drowning.
The grant awarded to the Broward County Department of Health, totaling $250,000, will fund training of local code-enforcement personnel and first responders; fund enforcement of safety codes in residential and public pools and spas; and fund awareness programs to keep children safe around water, according to Elliot Kaye, chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which chose the grant winners. The Department of Health received the largest grant.
“It might seem counterintuitive to talk about the issue of drowning in December, but … this is a day-to-day effort for us,” Kaye said on Friday morning. “We’re hoping that these grant funds will go a long way in assisting local governments in these efforts.’’
The Consumer Product Safety Commission chose the winners based on a competitive process involving municipalities’ enforcement, training and awareness proposals, according to Geoff Burgan, press secretary for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was a lead sponsor of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act of 2007, the legislation that led to the grants.
Wasserman Schultz said that, as a mother of three from South Florida, the issue of child pool safety is “near and dear to her heart.”
Five children age 4 and under have died from drowning in Broward County in 2015, the smallest number in recent years, which hints at progress, Wasserman Schultz said. However, she added, drowning “is an entirely preventable tragedy.”
The Broward County Health Department could not be reached for comment on how it intends to tackle the issue of child safety around pools. The Lake County Department of Health, as well as municipalities in Connecticut and Washington D.C., will receive, in total, more than $780,000 in government funds. The grants will be distributed early next year.
The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act was named after 7-year-old Virginia Graeme Baker, who drowned after being trapped by a suction drain at the bottom of a pool in 2002, Wasserman Schultz said.
She said she hopes the grants will provide incentives for municipalities to create their own practices to establish pool safety.