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Originally published July 15, 2014 at 4:37 PM | Page modified July 17, 2014 at 5:38 PM

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Corrected version

Editorial: June 2013 pool tragedy sharpens public-safety review

A 2013 drowning in a Seattle hotel pool has the Seattle Fire Department and Public Health — Seattle & King County retooling their response systems.


Seattle Times Editorial

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REMEDIAL work on public health and safety procedures is under way as a lawsuit was filed recently in the June 2013 drowning of a man in a hotel swimming pool.

The death of 27-year-old Tesfaye Girma Deboch at the Quality Inn & Suites Seattle Center stirred the Seattle Fire Department and Public Health - Seattle & King County to rethink how they perform their duties.

Both are works in progress. The health department is looking at how to better post information and inform the public about the results of pool inspections.

James Apa, public-health spokesman, said the department is currently overhauling its grading system for restaurants, and looking at how that might be adapted for public pools.

Ideas include colorful letter grades that can be seen by diners, and, perhaps, hotel and motel guests using a pool.

In the meantime, the health department’s website features this access point:

“To request inspection reports for a pool, email publichealth@kingcounty.gov. Please include the facility name and address of where the pool is located.”

The goal is to have new ways to present all pool inspection reports by the first quarter of next year.

Meanwhile, the Seattle Fire Department is looking at a variety of lessons learned, and working to upgrade skills.

For starters, the Post Incident Analysis report of the June 30, 2013, emergency response to the drowning was required reading for all firefighters. It reported what happened that day, and what to think about in the future.

During 2014, all Seattle firefighters will take an online Awareness Level Surface Water Rescue Training course. Kyle Moore, SFD information officer, reports the course supplements surface-water rescue training for firefighters.

Additional departmental training will help use witness statements to locate a victim in an underwater rescue.

A new policy will require the department’s Technical Rescue Dive Team to stay on the scene until “the patient has been removed from the water.” The dive team was on the way and then recalled — code-greened — before it arrived on the scene.

The June 2013 drowning has two public agencies rethinking procedures: how to inform the public about pool conditions, and how fire department protocols can be sharpened.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

Information in this article, originally published July 15, 2014, was corrected July 17, 2014. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the department’s goal is to present all inspections in new ways by the first quarter of next year. The public health department’s goal is to present pool inspections in new ways by then.



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