Pools are a summer rite of passage for many Americans. And while most people take action to prevent drowning dangers, they might not know how to prevent other pool injuries. That’s why pool drain safety is so important.
Pool drains can cause injuries—and worse—when a person’s body, limbs, hair, jewelry or clothes become entangled with a drain.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that pool drain entrapments caused 32 injuries and two fatalities between 2008 and 2012. The issue gained new awareness in 2013 when the son of musician and TV personality Usher nearly drowned in his family pool after getting stuck in a pool drain. Like Usher’s son, most victims are kids.
Pool drain safety tips
Fortunately, there are simple things you can do when it comes to pool drain safety to keep you and your guests safe. They include:
- Investing in a good drain cover. In 2008, Congress passed the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act that mandates that all public pools in the United States be equipped with anti-entrapment drain covers. But the law does not apply to private pools.
Make sure your private pool has a good drain cover. The newer models have more vents than older ones. They are also raised up above the pool floor as opposed to being flush against the bottom.
- Installing a Safety Vacuum Release System. This device automatically shuts off the pool’s pump if it detects that something is blocking the pool drain.
- Keeping loose items out of the pool. Remove jewelry and tie up long hair before you get in the pool. Also make sure to wear bathing attire that’s appropriate for the pool—baggy clothing is a pool drain safety hazard.
- Knowing how to shut off the pump. Clearly mark the pump shut-off switch and make sure you know how to shut it off.
- Keeping on an eye on things. No one should swim alone. And this is especially true when it comes to kids, who are the most common victims of pool drain entanglements. Also make sure at least one adult who knows proper first aid is keeping an eye on everyone. Finally, encourage kids to stay away from the pool drain area and any other suction areas.
- Having the proper safety equipment close at hand. This includes life rings and reaching poles.
- Fencing off your pool. A fence with a self-closing and self-latching gate will help keep kids and anyone else from swimming unsupervised.
If someone becomes entrapped in a pool drain, the CPSC recommends immediately turning off the pump. Don’t try to pull the person away—instead, insert fingers or a small object between the drain and the person’s body to break the seal and then roll them off until they’re free.