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Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act

Stop Swimming Pool Suction Entrapment Accidents

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December 19, 2007, was a very rewarding day for the pool and spa industry. On that day, the Energy Bill was signed into law, and with it, the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act was enacted. Like the many others that have worked diligently to get this passed, it was one of those special moments where one feels a connection with something that will inevitably change lives.

The act was named after the granddaughter of Secretary of State James A. Baker III, whose life was cut tragically short by a suction entrapment in a family spa during a birthday party. She didn't need to die to pass this law, but she will be forever remembered. There have been over 150 entrapment related injuries and deaths over the last two decades and nearly all of them happened because a pool or spa was not maintained to a safe standard. In many cases, the family was actually aware that the pool or spa drain cover was broken or missing and yet children were allowed to use the pool. One of the most important aspects of the new Federal Pool and Spa Safety Act is that it makes drains optional.

Drains are not necessary to properly circulate water in your pool. If you choose to turn off the pool and run it only on skimmers, you could point one of the return inlets to the floor to provide adequate circulation in the deep end. Another one-two punch is to have your pool technician replace your energy hog pump, with a new variable speed swimming pool pump and your pool be drain free and completely safe from entrapment. In addition, your utility bill will could be $40-50/month lower.

One common misperception is that avoiding entrapment is as simple as installing a vacuum break, or "SVRS." It really is not that simple. All pools have very complex plumbing and it can be difficult to simply install such a device and "set it and forget it." If you do install such a device, keep in mind that they must be tested frequently following manufacturers recommendations. If your pool or spa has “dual drains” you are also not guaranteed to be safe. IF a cover is broken or missing or too much flow is going through the outlet, you may still be in danger.

There are two very easy ways to address all suction entrapment and the most important starts with education:

  1. Always warn children to stay away from all pool fittings.
  2. Never use a pool unless the fittings are securely in place.
It is sad that many of the children that are injured or killed in such tragic events had parents that knew the drain cover was broken, missing, or unsecured.

Remember, getting "sucked" down to the drain may be the easiest to understand, but it is not the most common. Having a proper cover in place that meets the newest version of ASME A112.19.8 will be your best protection from the dangerous forces. These covers are now coming on the market and by mid summer, there will be many available. The APSP Quarterly Winter 2008 issue describes in detail how your pool should be built to prevent entrapment using APSP/ANSI-7 Entrapment Avoidance Standards.

Backyards have seen a renewed focus in families around the world. With the fun and excitement of owning a pool, comes a rather large responsibility. It is not overwhelming, but it should be given an unrelenting priority and importance in your family: Pool and Spa Safety Counts. The reward for just small bursts of attention to safety is going to be very apparent. You will have the opportunity to create some fantastic memories with friends, family, and even strangers. If we tackle safety as a priority together, none of those memories will needlessly end tragic.

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