Good Fences Make Good Pools

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You wouldn't think of using an unlicensed electrician to do the wiring when you are building or renovating a pool. Given the choice, you'd choose a certified pool operator to maintain your pool rather than someone who hasn't earned the CPO designation. Same with plumbing; the plumbers running your pipes — whether subcontractors or employees — better have the certification or license to prove they know what they are doing and under what code.

So why wouldn't you use a Certified Fencing Professional (CFP) to complete your project with an expertly designed and installed fence?

In the country's current litigious environment, and to maintain your company's reputation for top quality, it just makes good business sense to adhere to a standard whenever one applies. And with a growing number of jurisdictions — from municipal to federal — adopting pool-safety codes that require fences, builders soon may not have the option of installing fences in whatever way they want to, or of not installing fences at all. As fences and safety precautions in general come under more scrutiny, the qualifications of the fence installer may, too.

The American Fence Association is the fencing industry's trade association; it publishes the bimonthly Fencepost , sets standards for ethics and business practices and administers the Certified Fencing Professional credentialing. "The CFP [test] is a pretty rigorous exam," says Janet Arden, editor of The Fencepost . "They have to have had experience in the field for a certain number of years and they have to be conversant with all forms of fencing and installation challenges. That's so important if you're installing a fence — especially a fence around a pool. A CFP adheres to the code of ethics and that requires them to be current with local codes."

The AFA operates the Field Training School, which teaches installation techniques and provides upto-date information on new technologies. Students prove competency in eight areas of fencing: PVC fence products; bias cutting; chainlink; farm and ranch; gate operators; welding; wood fence and ornamental metals.

"Because [pool safety] is such a big topic," says Arden, "the AFA has done education programs at its national meeting and trade show, covering what is the best kind of pool fencing and what is safe and what is not."

Overcoming Obstacles

  With the increasing public attention on pool safety, installing a fence when a pool is built or remodeled may not just be a good idea, it may be required. "There are a lot of places where you don't have a choice," says Arden. "From where I sit, that's probably the way it should be."

In jurisdictions where fences are not required, clients may have objections to installing a fence because of the extra cost and because of aesthetic concerns. Homeowners may visualize the gray chain-link fences that often encircle public swimming pools. And pool builders may balk at suggesting a fence where it's not required by code.

"A lot of times, probably people shy away from a fence." says Arden. "And

maybe even pool contractors shy away from recommending a fence because people see it as a big investment to begin with, and why should we make the price even more?"

Rick Henderson is editor of World Fence News, a trade publication based in Austin, Texas, covering all aspects of the fencing industry. Henderson says that while fence contractors have a financial interest in supporting codes that require isolation fencing on all pools, historically some pool builders have seen such rulings as a setback. "It's nothing new for pool builders to oppose [ fencing requirements]," says Henderson. "I think they feel it increases the cost of the installation and therefore may reduce the amount that goes into the actual pool. This is something that's been ongoing."

But over the past several years, numerous agencies have helped bring the discussion of safety into the spotlight, and today everyone in the pool industry knows — or should know — about the layers of safety. The first layer. Exclusion fencing. With so much public attention on pool safety thanks to campaigns by Safe Kids USA, the APSP, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning-prevention organizations and safety activists such as Nancy Baker, who testified before a Senate sub-committee, it's now much easier for pool builders to talk about fencing and the added cost. For builders working in areas where fencing is required by code, it's as easy as talking about the pump and the filter.

Fence Cred

Aq 507 89pg 0002 Just as the APSP's Certified Building Professional and Certified Service Professional designations let consumers know that a builder or service tech has completed a course of study and has tested to a given standard, the AFA's Certified Fencing Professional program assures a level of competency in the fencing industry.

"[Consumers] realize that it's a certification issued by an established trade association," says Henderson. "They may not know specifically what CFP means, but I think it adds some prestige to a company and to an individual.

"I know the contractors who are CFPs use it widely. It adds credibility to what they're doing and I think pretty successfully."

Perhaps as an indication of how rigorous the CFP testing is, Henderseon says there are thousands of fence contractors and only hundreds of CFPs. "In a lot of states you don't even have to be licensed to be a fencing contractor," he says. "You'd be well-advised to install [ fencing] based on generally recognized standards even if it's not in the local code."

A good pool builder will know what fencing and safety codes apply in their local jurisdiction, but smaller companies may want to " leave it to the experts." In that case, a CFP fencing contractor will know what local and national codes apply and will install a pool safety fence to recognized safety specifications."You need to deal with professionals who really know what the local requirements are, know what kind of fence will work and how to install it so it truly is secure," says Arden. "And that includes latching and locking mechanisms as well.

"But the bottom line is there's really no price you can put on someone's safety."

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