The Checkout

Check Those Pool Drains

Annys Shin

The opening of our neighborhood public pool this past week got me thinking about the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Safety Act, which I wrote about a few months back. The bill requires operators of public pools and spas to install drain covers to prevent the suction of the drain from pinning children underwater, among other provisions. It was named for the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker who died in 2002 after she became entrapped by a spa drain.

The bill came close to becoming a casualty of one Senator's crusade against irresponsible spending by Congress, but after some negotiation it was allowed to make its way to the President's desk.

Now, it looks as if it was a good thing that the public didn't have to wait another year for the legislation to become law. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recently released data showing that between 1999 and 2007 there were 74 reports of incidents involving the kind of entrapment that killed Baker's granddaughter, resulting in 9 deaths and 63 injuries.

Just as disturbing was the finding that the average number of drownings for children under age 5 in pools and spas had increased to a yearly average of 283, up from 267.

Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death to children ages one to four.

Full size swimming pools and spas are not the only potential danger zones, according to Consumer Reports, which is also concerned about the safety of inflatable baby pools. They aren't covered by local zoning laws that deal with pool safety.

The CPSC has a public service announcement you can view here and offers the following tips for a safe pool season:

-Since every second counts, always look for a missing child in the pool first. Precious time is often wasted looking for missing children anywhere but in the pool.
-Don't leave toys and floats in the pool that can attract young children and cause them to fall in the water when they reach for the items.
-Inspect pools and spas for missing or broken drain covers.
-Do not allow children in a pool or spa with missing/broken covers. Inserting an arm or leg into the opening can result in powerful suction and total body submersion/drowning.
-For above-ground and inflatable pools with ladders, remove or secure the ladder when the pool is not in use.
-It is important to always be prepared for an emergency by having rescue equipment and a phone near the pool. Parents should learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Pool operators have until the end of the year to comply with the new law. But when we hit the public pool this week (we would have gone earlier but for a deficit of swimmy diapers) I plan on checking to see if there is a cover over the drain. If anyone out there does likewise, feel free to let us know what you find.

Happy swimming everyone!

By Annys Shin |  June 3, 2008; 7:00 AM ET Annys Shin
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Its a total miscategorization and frankly, a sign of poor research, to say "inflatable baby pools." While "baby" and "kiddie" pools do pose a drowning risk (as little as 2" of water), its the inflatble pools that are larger, but still available relitively cheaply. You can go get a 3' deep pool with a 12' diameter from WalMart for about $100. Unlike a "kiddie pool," it comes with a filter and pump, and it is not reasonable nor expected to drain it after every use. This is where the problem comes in, b/c its not monitored all the time, yet it may not be surrounded by a fence or other barriers to keep kids out. Also, in many jurisdictions they are covered by pool fencing codes, but because of the market segment the pools appeal to and the cost involved, people don't fence them. Who is going to put up a $2000 fence for a $100 pool?

Posted by: RT | June 3, 2008 8:26 AM

The federal definition of the main drain is any submerged suction outlet. Be aware of small (2" to 1-1/2") holes in pool walls for vacumming. Skimmer equalizers could pose a threat where a skimmer is clogged with leaves or debris and the suction is diverted to the wall equalizer. The Baker law will include these other suction sources to be made safe.

Posted by: A pool guy | June 16, 2008 11:23 AM

Thats how malnda my pet bird died. she loved swimming. she was a seagull. we rescued her. and taught her how to swim. she got caught in my mom's pool drainage area, got stuck, broke her neck from struggling, and died. she was so sweet. thats why we bought one from keeping kopi (my two yr. old niesie) from dying or suffering personal/ serious injuries. and that is why i got a haircut. too long hair can trap you under too. and thats why i dont let my dog mandy swim a whole lot anymore. se tends to get her paws stuck. keep small children out of a home pool with missing/broken drainage covers, do not let small pets swim with missing/broken drainage covers, get a haircut if your hair is over two feet long to prevent from getting pinned, dont sit on a gate drain, or fasten small pets,children in a lifejacket. to prevent the pinnings.


Posted by: GrinsAndKisses | June 23, 2008 12:56 AM

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