Pool Safely: Making Public Pools and Spas Safer for Children

Aquatic activity is a very popular form of exercise and recreation for people of all ages. Swimming is a great way to unwind while strengthening your muscles and getting back to your roots.

I have yet to meet a person who does not enjoy being in water to some capacity whether they enjoy sitting in a hot tub with jets softening up their tight muscles, or they like to frolic at the beach on hot summer’s day, or they visit the local swimming complex to do a few laps.

There are many sports designed to be played in water, such as water polo, diving and plain old swimming.

In the United States, it is estimated that people visit swimming pools over 300 million times a year. That’s millions of people every day getting up, putting on their bathing suits (and goggles, and maybe swim caps) and jumping in for a dip.

With this much interest, it is very important that consumers are kept safe. Pools contain a lot of potential for injury or illness.

Pool Safely

Because of this, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission launched Pool Safely: Simple Steps to Save Lives.

This campaign joins people and engages them in conversation about safety in pools and spas. Everyone is able to share information and experience – their expertise – on the best practices for pool safety and how to save lives.

At a federal level, there is legislation in place that mandates certain requirements and standards for virtually all public pools and spas in the country. This also includes a public information campaign.

Preventing Injury

Pool Safely carries out the mandates given by The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act. This act was put in place in memory of Virginia Graeme Baker, a seven year-old girl who drowned after getting trapped in the powerful suction of a hot tub drain.

This act was signed by George W. Bush in 2007 and was designed to prevent injuries or tragic deaths that occur as a result of hidden hazards in water systems.

These hazards include entrapment in drains as well as evisceration. It sounds terribly medieval and violent, and it is.

If pools are not safe – if drains are left uncovered, for example – the drain suction is so powerful that it can literally eviscerate somebody. Eviscerate comes from the Latin viscera meaning stomach/intestines/digestive organs, and the e at the beginning suggests an exit or removal.

As you may have guessed, drain suction has the power to pull your intestines out through the anus.

It sounds horrifying, and it is horrifying. And it has happened to enough people that something had to be done about it. Nobody deserves to suffer such a terrible injury like this when they were trying to enjoy themselves, get some exercise or have fun.

This often happens to children who sit on the drains and since children’s bodies are not strong enough, they are very susceptible to this horrific injury.

You can see why something had to be done about it. Tens of children suffer from or die from this injury every year in the United States alone. One famous story was singer Usher’s son who was 5 years old and had this happen to him. He recovered, but not all of them do.

Public pools are required to have anti-entrapment covers for drains. This law passed in 2008. However, it only covers public pools. This law does not apply to home pools.

It has been good for the pool business though – the demand for drain covers drastically increased and this means there was higher production and sales.

The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act found that drowning was the second leading cause of death to children between the ages of 1-14 in the United States.

This act researched and shared its findings with drowning or related deaths, and then works to provide information on how to reduce these deaths. Safety standards are put in place, but first these standards are approved by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

One of these includes a suggestion for unblockable drains, meaning that a drain would be of any size and shape that a human body could NOT block – therefore there would be no suction entrapment hazards. Every public pool and spa must have drain covers, but again, this only pertains to public pools and spas, not residential ones.

But we have found that this law encouraged the production and purchase of drain covers for residential pools, too. More and more stories came into the public eye about related injuries.

Grant Program


Pool Safely offers a grant program that provides both state and local governments with some funding to implement programs around educating people about these issues as well as covering the costs of enforcement.

Pool Safely was put in place by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. They are here to protect the public against risks of injury that should not be there in the first place. The CPSC works to protect consumers in terms of pool and spa safety, but they also protect consumers from products with fire, electrical, chemical or mechanical hazards.

These products include all kinds of things like toys, cribs, lighters, household chemicals, power tools etc. since their beginning in 1973 they have helped to drastically reduce the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products.

We live in an age where there is so much to try and all of these products must first be checked and passed. You can now look closely at your products and take note of any safety labels or hazard warnings – this is the work of the Consumer Product Safety Act.

The Zac Foundation & Working with Parents

Pool Safely has several – in fact, more than 1000 – worldwide partners working together, using their diverse experience to provide knowledge and resources in order to further the campaign’s reach.

Several of these partners are foundations who were established in memory of a person who had drowned due to drain entrapment. They target children since children are at the biggest risk, due to their tiny bodies!

The Zac Foundation is an example of such. The Zac Foundation works with Pool Safely to provide information to all Americans about water safety and how to prevent drowning.

Other partners include Charlie’s House, FastMed, Walmart, National Organisations for Youth Safety, American Red Cross and more.

Pool Safely also has a Campaign Safety Community, which is a group of organisations that, while using information from Pool Safely, use their own resources to implement enforcement.

Pool Safely works closely with parents by providing information for them to increase safety at their home with residential pools and spas. They lay out seven rules such as:

  1. Never leave a child unattended in water
  2. Teach children how to swim
  3. Teach children to stay away from drains
  4. Make sure all pools and spas have drain covers
  5. Install barriers and covers around the pool or spa
  6. Stay up to date with CPR training for both children and adults
  7. Take the pledge. This pledge means adults must remind themselves of the pledge to water safety before going near water especially with children. It serves as a reminder to stay safe
  8. Stay Up to Date

You can stay up to the date with all of the latest information and resources on the Pool Safely website:

https://www.poolsafely.gov/

There are PDFs laying out legislation as well as events  you can keep an eye out for, and press kits. There is a blog you can read as well as press releases so you can be in the know for any new developments or advancements in the pool safety industry.

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