City staff are proposing changes to the city's outdoor pool by-laws that will require gates that allow access to backyard pools to be locked when the pool is not in use.
Following a number of drowning incidents involving young children in 2010, Ontario's coroner recommended a requirement that all private pools be surrounded by a fence, including one separating the house from the pool.
But in a report prepared in advance of this week's planning committee meeting, city staff said a greater concern is that pool fences became ineffective "the moment gates failed to bar access to pools when they are left open, unlocked or in disrepair."
The rule changes will mean pool enclosure gates must be locked (and not just lockable) when the pool is not in use or in the event the gate leads to a public place, when the gate itself is not in use.
The minimum standards for gates will also be updated, including requirements for temporary enclosures during the installation of a pool. But pools surrounded by a fence on three sides and a house on the fourth side would still be acceptable.
Hot tubs with hard, lockable lids will be exempt from the need for an enclosure, provided the lid is locked when the tub is not in use.
Coroner's recommended fence between home, pool
Child safety advocates say the city's recommendations don't go far enough, and said the by-law should be following the coroner's recommendations.
"When we talk to families of children that have actually died this way, it wouldn't have mattered how much it would have cost them to put that extra layer of protection into place, they would have paid it," said Pamela Fuselli of Parachute Canada, a child safety advocacy group.
Ottawa homeowner Jennifer Stelzer paid $1,000 to block her pool with a fence, an investment she said is worth it.
"If I'm not here, this fence is still going to be here," said Stelzer.
Arlene Gregoire researched the issue for the city of Ottawa and said 30 per cent of drowning incidents in recent years happened in homes with a four-fence enclosure.
She said asking homeowners to retrofit backyards would be challenging and costly and said education is more effective.
"You have to be supervising your children at all times, because that is the key to protecting children when there is a pool," said Gregoire.
The planning committee will vote on the recommendations on Tuesday before the measures go to city council. If city council approves changes, they would come into force in January of next year.