Expect to see many pools and spas close down suddenly across the country. That’s because December 19th is the deadline that mandatory anti-drowning drain covers have to be installed. The improved safety system was passed by Congress last year and pool and spa owners had one year to comply.
The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act is aimed at keeping kids safer.
She was the 7-year-old granddaughter of former Secretary of State James A. Baker who was drowned at the bottom of a spa in 2002, held down by the suction of the drain despite the fact that adults were trying to free her.
Her mother, Nancy Baker, says at least the lives of other children can be saved. “This legislation helps give meaning to the tragic circumstances that took her life and the lives of many other children,” Baker said. “It is a tribute to these children and their grieving families that this bill will prevent injuries and death as a result of drowning. Graeme would be honored.”
The legislation bans the manufacture, sale or distribution of drain covers that don’t meet anti-entrapment safety standards.
The new models of drains are hump-shaped. Pools with just one drain also are required to install a second drain system, or external shut-off.
Most adults don’t realize that the bottom of a pool and spa is a hidden hazard for children. At least one person dies each year because of the 400 to 500 pounds of forceful suction of a flat drain in a single-drain pool.
Safe Kids Worldwide , a nonprofit group estimates that 33 kids died in Americans swimming pools under the age of 14 between 1985 and 2004. Drowning is the second-leading cause of accidental injury-related death among children ages 1-14.
Unfortunately, many of the replacement dome shaped drains are not yet available. And the Consumer Product Safety Commission did not receive $7 million for enforcement from Congress.
That means that states are supposed to take over the transition. That also means that parents will have to be especially vigilant. The National Swimming Pool Foundation estimates that about 80 percent of public pools are spas are not in compliance and may have to close.
The new drain-cover rule also applies to new portable hot tubs sold for backyard use by consumers. The rules do not apply to existing hot tubs. Look for more than a single drain in any pool, and your child should never be in a pool that has a cracked drain.
The pool industry has long fought the tougher standards knowing that the drain suction is strong enough to hold down an adult. A child had no fighting chance at all.