Federal Commission Extends Pool Drain Law to Public Pools

Spring has come early for many this year and already people are preparing their pools in anticipation of the summer swimming season. Now some municipal pools will have extra steps to take this year to keep people safe from swimming pool accidents.

Last fall, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) decided to include city pools in its 2007 law requiring all public pools with a single drain system to have suction shut-off systems. Prior to this fall, municipal pools were exempt from the law if they installed drain covers. Pool operators will have until May 2012 to install the new systems.

The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act was enacted in 2007. It set minimum standards for pool and spa safety, and required that every public pool or spa have anti-entrapment syst ems.

Under the law, all public swimming pools or spas must have at least one of the following systems in place to prevent drain suction from trapping swimmers:

• automatic pump shut-off

• suction-limiting vent system

• safety vacuum release system

• gravity drainage system

• drain disablement

• another piece of equipment that reverses or shuts off drain suction

The law is named after the seven-year-old granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker III who drowned in a spa after being suctioned to its drain. Efforts by Baker and her mother were unsuccessful due to the severity of the suction, but two men eventually were able to free her, breaking the drain in the process. Their efforts were not enough to save her life, however.

Lawmakers hoped that the act would prevent child fatalities, and so far there have been no deaths from pool drains since it was enacted. Between 1999 and 2010 there were 80 injuries and 12 fatalities due to pool drains, but none of the deaths occurred after 2007.

Though meeting the requirements of the law may be costly for municipal pool operators, the safety equipment is essential to preventing swimming pool accidents and protecting the lives of swimmers and spa users. Hopefully, the negative trend in fatalities will continue and pools will become a safer place to exercise, play and relax.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a pool drain-related injury or fatality, please contact an experienced North Carolina swimming pool accident lawyer who can help you understand your rights.