PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- A pool fence can never replace active adult supervision, but it's one of the layers of protection that can help prevent a child from drowning.
Accidental drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death for kids younger than 5 years old. The two most popular types of fencing are made of mesh or wrought iron. So, what's the difference? Which one is safer? We're breaking down how they work, how long they last, and how much they cost, along with the pros and cons of each. However, it also depends on where you live and what your city requires.
Arizona Childproofers sells and installs only mesh pool fences. Owner Dustin Dastrup said there are only two height options -- 4 feet or 5 feet -- and it comes in brown, tan, or black. "Some of the advantages that we like with the mesh fence is it doesn't have a rigid top, so we don't feel like kids are able to climb it as easily as you would with an iron fence," explained Dastrup.
Phoenix resident Pam Hackett liked the mesh pool fence over wrought-iron for a variety of reasons. One, she has the flexibility of removing it easily. She hired Arizona Childproofers and had it installed earlier this year. "We have a brand new grandbaby that comes over all the time," she said. "We don't have little ones that live with us but we certainly want to be safe when she's around. We really liked the aesthetics of it, felt it was cleaner lines," she said.
Because it's a tension-based fence, Dastrup said it's tough enough and designed to prevent toddlers and young children from pushing it down. However, the see-through mesh material that is UV coated does have its limits.
"The fence is not impenetrable," he explained. "There's no top to it. It can be cut. It can be burnt. It is tear-resistant. We get a lifetime warranty from the manufacturer."
He estimates people should budget at least $1,500 for the average modern mesh pool fence. Installation, which requires drilling into the pool deck, takes one day.
Arizona Pool Fence, owned by retired Phoenix firefighter Tim Maloney, sells and installs both mesh and wrought iron pool fences. He said if you want iron, plan to pay more. “The iron fence system is typically more than the mesh system,” he said. “It's typically double in price versus the mesh."
In his opinion, both fence systems with self-closing, self-latching, lockable gates are safe, but recommends mesh over iron because kids cannot climb it. That in mind, you might not have a choice. “Some people do go to iron fence in cities because it meets code requirements,” Maloney explained. There are other reason to go with iron. “It's traditional, it's rigid, it's strong," Maloney said. "People go with an iron fence if they have big dogs [or] if they want to have something that's permanent.”
Iron fencing is also more durable than mesh.
“If you look at monsoons in July, August, sometimes September, the iron fence system will sustain those higher winds and typically trees falling on them,” Maloney said. The only down side to iron fencing is that kids can figure out how to climb it by putting their feet and hands in the openings. “They can actually get up, get on top of it, and get over it."
Maloney recommended adding another layer like a door alarm and stressed that no fence system can promise to save your child’s life. “[Pool fences are] not babysitters,” he explained. “You are buying time. You cannot watch your child 24/7. You just can't. You cook dinner; you take showers; you're busy cause you're working at home. These barrier systems buy you time [if you lose track of your child at home]."
Even if young children don't live with you, water safety experts still recommend you consider installing a fence, especially if you plan to have family, friends, neighbors, or other visitors with kids visit.
Don Councilor, the general inspections field supervisor for the City of Phoenix, explained that if you are building new home in Phoenix or adding a pool to a home built after 1990, you must have an interior fence around your pool or your house windows and doors must comply with City Code. That applies to everyone regardless of whether they have children.
Some other fencing requirements include:
- The fence must be at least 5 feet high.
- Openings must be small enough so a 4-inch ball can’t pass through.
- Gates must be self-closing and self-latching and able to lock.
Most of water-related incidents involving kids younger than 5 in Arizona involve backyard pools or apartment pools according to the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona. If you or someone you know can’t afford a pool fence, there’s a way to get one for free. For at least 15 years, the office of the United Phoenix Fire Association Local 493 has given out free pool fences to families in need through its Adopt-A-Fence program. Just call their office for more information at 602-277-1500.