As pool owners prepare for the swimming season, they may be unaware of hazards that exist in their pools.
It is called suction entrapment, and it occurs when a body is held against a pool or spa drain by the force of the pool’s suction or when an article of clothing, jewelry, hair or a limb is caught in a faulty drain.
One of the most important factors in keeping children and adults safe from entrapment incidents in pools and spas is to install anti-entrapment or safety drain covers that are compliant with the Pool & Spa Safety Act.
The P& S Safety Act is one of the few federal laws applying to swimming pools, and is only enforced in public pools.
The law was inspired by an entrapment incident that took the life of 7-year-old Virginia Graeme Baker, the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker III.
In June 2002, Graeme became stuck to a hot tub drain and was unable to pull herself free. Efforts by her mother to pull Graeme from the drain proved unsuccessful. Two men who eventually freed Graeme from the spa pulled so hard that the drain cover broke from the force. Graeme died from drowning, but the real cause of her death was suction entrapment due to a bad drain cover.
After her death, her mother, Nancy Baker, worked tirelessly to advocate for pool and spa safety. Mrs. Baker, her family and Safe Kids Worldwide actively lobbied Congress to win support for a law to require anti-entrapment drain covers and other safety devices, as needed. The statute was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and signed into law by President George W. Bush in December 2007.
The law mandates that drains in public and hotel pools and hot tubs be covered with larger, rounded covers that do not create suction, and that there is a back-up mechanical system installed in drains to prevent suction in those pools that have a single main drain.
The importance of replacing and protecting non-conformant drains cannot be overstated.
Ask your pool and spa service professional if your pool’s drain cover meets the guidelines of the P& S Safety Act.