Do you have a backyard pool that has been on your property for years? Do you know if that pool uses a drain system? If so, you may need to add some new safety features to keep your family safe this summer.
Many older pools, both public and residential, were built with drains because pool designers originally believed drains were necessary to keep water circulating and reduce contamination. However, the suction created by these drains can exert 500 or more pounds of pressure if a person or object becomes stuck in them, making it almost impossible to lift someone who is trapped against one of these underwater drains.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were 83 reported swimming pool drain accidents between 1999 and 2008, including 11 deaths. This number is most likely a low estimate, as medical records and the police don’t always report the specific cause of drowning deaths. Whatever the exact number, it’s clear that the majority of accident victims are children who do not recognize the potential dangers of swimming pool drains.
Pool Designers Moving Away from Drains, but Older Pools Still a Problem
In recent years, swimming pool designers have looked at computational fluid dynamics using computer simulations of pools and have discovered that pools without drains are no less effective than pools with drains when it comes to circulating the water. This knowledge, paired with reports of horrific child drowning accidents, has led many designers to eliminate drains altogether from modern pools. Those public pools that were already built with drains are now required to use special rounded drain covers that don’t create suction.
Unfortunately, regulations on residential pools vary from state to state, and removing unsafe drains is not always a requirement. In Florida, people who have residential pools are only required to have one of several specifically outlined safety features, and some of those safety features are not necessarily enough to prevent a drowning accident (it is possible for a child to fall through a swimming pool cover, for example).
If you own a swimming pool, it is up to you to take the proper precautions to prevent drain-related and other drowning accidents.
5 Tips to Keep Your Pool Safe
1. Always supervise children. Never leave children without adult supervision in a pool, even if they have taken swimming lessons and appear to be competent swimmers (swimming abilities will not help if they become stuck on a drain).
2. Add a safety fence. Create some kind of barrier that completely surrounds your pool and that kids cannot easily climb over.
3. Update your pool’s safety features. If your pool currently has flat drain covers that create suction, upgrade to the kind of domed pool covers that public pools now use. You should also consider investing in a safety vacuum release system, which will cause pool drains to stop creating suction if a person or object becomes stuck in them.
4. Warn kids about drain dangers. Even if your pool already has domed covers and a safety vacuum release system, caution your kids to stay clear of the drain. They should also avoid wearing jewelry or baggy clothing and should put long hair in a bun or ponytail to prevent themselves from getting caught on any of the pool’s features.
5. Don’t try to lift a child straight off a pool drain. Because traditional pool drains have such powerful suction, it is impossible to pull a stuck child straight off the pool drain. If your child does become stuck, you will need to wedge your fingers or arm in between the child and the drain to break the suction, and then you will have to roll the child away from the drain.
If you take the proper precautions and know what to do in the event of an emergency, there’s no reason why you and your family can’t enjoy your backyard pool this summer.
About the Author:
Jeffrey Braxton is a trial lawyer in Fort Lauderdale who has devoted his 15-year career to the practice of personal injury law. As lead trial attorney for The Injury Law Firm of South Florida, Jeff has litigated thousands of cases and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, an exclusive group of attorneys who have resolved cases in excess of one million dollars.