Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy

Tropico Perspective: When safety shouldn’t be optional

There is much drama in rebuilding a house. I have watched more home improvement shows than anyone should be allowed, and yet I discover new challenges everyday that go unmentioned in the 42 minutes it takes to turn a three-bedroom bungalow into Tori Spelling’s new dream palace.

I’m no fool, though. I know it takes a lot more than 42 minutes to remodel a kitchen.

So far we are in Month 4 of our 4-week freshen-up project.

We have learned some hard lessons about when it’s okay to leave something alone, and when things need to be brought up to current building code. Wood windows, good; frayed, cloth-covered copper wire, bad. Pretty simple.

Not everything is so easy, though, and renovation can resemble triage in an emergency room: There are things you have to change, things you want to change, and things you are willing to live with.

There’s more to this than simply removing the old wires and outlets and replacing with new, and sometimes it can be frustrating. If we wanted a new house, we would have built one. After all, this old house was road-tested and has weathered lots of storms. But if newly required arc-fault circuit breakers prevent our house from burning down and GFI outlets keep my heart from screeching to a halt while blending daiquiris, I suppose it’s money well spent.

Remodeling the pool turned out to be a bigger deal. Making it safe for our children and protecting it from invasive teenagers was very important. We wanted to make this vintage pool as safe as possible, and there was a lot to do. None of it, however, would have been required, had we not elected to pull permits to make a plumbing change.

As with all renovation projects, unless permits are pulled and certain renovation triggers are met, making things safe is still optional. In some cases it shouldn’t be.

Last month, two children nearly drowned in La Crescenta on the same day, in two different pools. In both cases, the children slipped into the pools unnoticed. Kids don’t make noise when they drown.

In 2007, California amended its building code to allow for the use of pool-entry alarms. These sound off when anything weighing more than 18 pounds enters the water without an adult having temporarily disabled the alarm. They even turn themselves back on 15 minutes after swimmers leave the pool.

If the pools in La Crescenta had been equipped with these new alarms, a 105-decibel alarm would have sounded within 10 seconds — loud enough to alert the neighborhood.

Approved alarms can start at less than $300. You have to enter into a covenant to maintain the system, but for a comparatively small amount of money, any pool can be made a whole lot safer. Even if your pool already has safeguards, this is an extra layer of protection at a bargain price. And we will have one.

The idea that our pool spent the last 60 years being a little less than ideal makes one wonder about the process that requires safety upgrades only when undertaking a major remodel. Making a pool safer is now cheap enough that the city could consider requiring installation of safeguards on existing pools, regardless of whether they are remodeled.

You can get a rebate to get rid of your gas lawn mower or install a water-saving toilet. We could probably do the same thing to save a life.

MICHAEL TEAHAN lives in the Adams Hill area of Glendale with a clear view of the Verdugo Mountains so he can keep an eye on things. He can be reached at