Home-share operators across Grand Cayman are having to look at their pools and determine if a new regulation requiring emergency shutdown devices applies to them. The regulations apply to any pool that has public access.

The International Swimming Pool and Spa Code, a recognised international standard when it comes to pool construction, has made emergency shutoff devices a requirement for recreational pools and Cayman’s Department of Environmental Health issued a similar requirement last week aimed at Airbnb and other home-share hosts.

The shutoff devices are designed to prevent swimmers from being trapped at the bottom of a pool or spa due to the suction created by the drain. Drownings have occurred in such circumstances. 

Jay Ehrhart, spokesman for the Department of Tourism, said the office has been fielding calls from concerned home share operators, although he was unable to provide specific numbers.

Anthony Kirby, operations manager for Eco Pools, said he has been getting lots of calls from customers with questions about whether the new requirement affects their pools, and requesting estimates on installing a new shutoff device. Kirby said he expects as many as 30% of Cayman’s residential pools may be affected by the new regulation. The older the pool, the more likely it will need to be retrofitted.

“It was kind of a surprise for a lot of people,” Kirby said of the law. “A lot of people were caught with their pants down. They weren’t expecting it to happen so soon.”

He said costs for upgrading the pools can run from just under $500 to more than $3,000, depending upon whether owners decide to install a manual shutoff switch or some kind of automatic shutoff valve. 

While it may be a pain for owners, he said, he backs the Department of Environmental Health regulations.

“What they’re doing is a good thing,” he said. “We can’t put a price tag on somebody’s life.”

The regulations affect any pools that can be defined as public pools, including those at condominium or apartment complexes, cottage colonies, guesthouses and hotels. Pools at private homes where one or more rooms are being used for home sharing, would also be considered public, according to the Department of Environmental Health.

Richard Simms, director of DEH, said it is especially important for home sharing operators to be aware of the new regulations since they must pass an annual inspection.

“We try to inspect pools as often as we can,” Simms said, noting that the rules apply to all public pools, “but they are mostly done for people who are licensing [their homes].

“We want to make sure the visitors to this island are safe,” he added.

He said at minimum, manual shutoff switches need to be in place to meet the new standards. But he encouraged pool owners to consider installing automatic shutoff valves as well. Operators with questions should contact the DEH engineering department, he said.

A grace period is in effect, with compliance being mandatory by 30 April 2020. Failure to meet the requirement, DEH officials said, will mean the pools do not meet the requirements of Hotels Licensing Board and thus would not be licensed to host visitors in the tourism short-term pool. 

It is unclear from the release whether the rules apply to all pools at hotels and apartment or condominium complexes. The Department of Environmental Health did not respond to several requests for clarification.