Jan 9 2005

Cover your wells!

This isn’t a post on venture capital or anything else related to business but rather something much closer to home . . .    If you have a window well, please make sure it is covered. My wife and I have two dogs, one of whom is a 12 year old yellow lab named Beau. Beau is quite possibly the sweetest dog ever born (I’m of the belief that every person gets to have one truly exceptional dog in their lifetimes – Beau is this dog for us).  Beau wandered away the other night. We couldn’t find him for several hours. I finally started checking the window wells in some of the adjacent houses and found him in an uncovered well at a house down the block that is under construction. It was dark and the window well was flush with the ground – I almost fell in myself. Beau was pretty seriously hurt. Friday we thought things were over for him (he couldn’t walk at all), but now things are looking a little better as he’s regained use of his front legs and some use of his back legs. He’s taking steroids and we’re hoping that his back/spinal chord was bruised (in which case he’ll regain much of his abilities) and not broken (which would be very very bad news). While the accident was clearly my fault (he wandered off and should not have been in a position to fall into the well), I have a couple of observations:

1) I can’t believe how many window wells are uncovered. There were more uncovered wells around us than covered ones (and these are wide, deep wells). Most had little or no lip on them. Many were very close to a walkway or alley. One is our own well, which is probably 7 feet deep and has only about a 6 inch lip. We ordered a cover for it when we moved in,  but it isn’t ready yet.

2) I’m amazed at the local codes. I know that they codes are weak, because when we bought our house we asked for one of the window wells to be covered and were told no, citing that it wasn’t code. As I understand it, in my county the only wells that are required to be covered are those within 3 feet of a curb/walkway or within 15 feet of a door. The one in question at our house was about 3 ½ feet from the sidewalk.

I think it irresponsible of builders and homeowners not to do something about exposed wells. I also think the codes need to be changed. We called the guy that we hired to make our well cover this morning to try to hurry things up. In the meantime we’re going to see what we can do to make things safer at our house. We’re also going to ask our neighbors to do the same. As sad as we our about what happened to our dog, things could have been much worse if it had been a child who had wandered off. While I don’t even want to think about that situation, I found out from some of our neighbors that several children have fallen into wells in our community (resulting in a few lawsuits).  This is a scary situation. My wife and I are going to petition the local zoning board to try to get the rules changed.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime,  if you have a window well please cover it!