Two Massachusetts citizens are advocating legislation to require no-dial emergency phones near hotel and motel pools.
Vivian Wicks, who lost her long-time partner and the father of her children in 2010 from "complications of a near-drowning," has been working in conjunction with Peter Ainsworth, the family’s attorney.
Charlie Perkins was swimming with three of his children, all under the age of 10 at the time, at an Econo Lodge hotel pool in West Yarmouth, Mass. At one point, he failed to come up to the surface. There was no lifeguard on duty, and the children were unable to pull him from the water, Ainsworth said.
A Suffolk Superior Court jury recently awarded Perkins’ children more than $2.5 million, finding the owner of the pool, Ragini, LLC, responsible for the death. As murky water obstructed visibility to the bottom of the pool, emergency responses also were delayed because the children could not dial 911 from a nearby phone. They did not know that it was necessary to dial “9” to get an outside line before dialing 911, Ainsworth said.
All three of Perkins’ children tried to dial 911 from the phone, however “none of them had any luck,” said Ainsworth. He noted that there was a sign posted near the phone directing users to first dial “9” to get an outside line. However, the sign is of little use during times of panic, he said.
Ainsworth and Wicks want to see the installation of emergency phones at hotel and motel pools and then move on to “anywhere that doesn’t have a lifeguard,” such as apartments and condos, Ainsworth said. These phones would provide an immediate connection to emergency services.
“This has been my battle since 2010, and I don’t plan on stopping until our mission is complete,” Wicks said. “It’s a matter of public safety. That phone is of the utmost importance.”
Ainsworth contends that such emergency phones are extremely necessary, even though many people carry cell phones. Cell service isn’t always reliable, and the connections don’t always provide immediate location information to emergency services, he said.
“[A call that comes] through a land line can tell 911 not only that you’re at the XYZ hotel, but that you’re calling from the pool,” he said. “The phone issue is so simple, common sense and inexpensive that we don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t legislate on it right away.”
Although the legislation is still in the planning stages, Ainsworth and Wicks have made inroads with state representatives. They eventually hope to have the legislation enforced at the national level, Wicks said.