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Pool Alarms Fail Safety Tests in France

Tuesday 01 July 2008

Doubts have been expressed concerning the efficiency of swimming pool alarms following official tests carried out on a number of leading models.

The majority of alarms failed to detect a test object dropped into the water, equivalent in weight to that of an infant. Most alarms also failed to comply with safety standards in one or more respects.

The tests were carried out by the official French Government watchdog for consumer safety, the Commission de sécurité des consommateurs (CSC).

The CSC tested six alarms on the market but found that only one alarm, the Sensor Espio from MG International, detected the drop of a 6kg weight into the pool. CSC also found that some alarms were set off by the wind or the noise level was below that specified or that the product information to the user was inadequate.

The other alarms in the tests were the DET 10 Aqualarm, Poolguard from Energy Engineering, ALPOOL JB 2005 from ALPOTEC, Aquasensor Premium (1st generation) from MG International, and Sécuripool from Sécuripool International.

Since 2006, in order to reduce the risk of accidental drowning of a child, all sub-surface pools in France must be equipped with an appropriate safety system.

The system can either be a pool alarm, safety barrier, safety cover or a pool shelter. The vast majority of pool owners have opted for an alarm, generally because it is the least expensive or intrusive of the various systems.

The alarms are fixed to the side of a pool, immersed in the water, and are activated by water disturbance. Power is supplied by a battery in the alarm. Normally, they can be installed without the need to engage a specialist installer.

When the new safety law was passed in 2004 it created a huge amount of controversy as the law applied to pools already in place and there were few products on the French market that complied with the requirements of the law.

Many also considered that this was yet another ‘nanny state’ piece of legislation which was no substitute for appropriate parental supervision. Somewhat bizarrely, the law does not apply to above ground pools.

Research by MGI, the leading supplier of alarms systems, suggests that around half of the 850,000 pool owners have chosen to ignore the law as they do not have any kind of safety measure installed. The obligation to install a safety system falls on the owner not the pool company, who can escape their own responsibility by merely advising their client of the safety requirement.

Failure to comply with the law can result in a fine of €45,000 but enforcement of the law is weak as it is not a priority for the police and gendarmes. Arguably, the law itself has been brought into disrepute by the level of the fine which seems disproportionate to the offence.

The latest tests by the CSC do bring into question the test procedures carried out by the manufacturers in order to meet the standard safety requirements, called NF P 90-307. The manufacturers themselves were all able to produce satisfactory test certificates to CSC. MG International also stated that the alarm tested had since been superceeded by a later model that had resolved any possible problem of non-detection.

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