Pool and spa safety is a subject very seldom addressed by pool contractors, pool stores, pool designers or pool salesmen, which is a huge mistake.
Pools and spas are potentially dangerous places and there is so much that can be done to make them safer.
Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental injury-related death among children ages one to 14 and the leading cause of accidental injury-related death among children ages one to four.
Nine out of 10 drowning-related deaths occur while a child is being supervised.
Recently, Abigail Taylor, a six-year-old girl from Minnesota, was severely injured when she came in contact with a single unprotected pool main drain in a wading pool. According to news reports the main drain cover had been removed. This incident demonstrates why it is crucial to close a pool whenever a drain cover is loose, broken or missing.
Abigail sat on the drain at the bottom of the pool and her bottom created increased suction on the drain. The strength of the suction pulled part of her small intestines out of her.
It is a miracle that she was able to pull herself free and survive but her life will never be the same. She will be fed intravenously for the rest of her life as she can’t process food the normal way.
This case was one of entrapment. There are various forms of entrapment with hair entrapment being the most common at 38 per cent of all cases.
Next is limb entrapment at 29 per cent, followed by body entrapment 27 per cent, evisceration (as in Abigail’s case) 6 per cent.
Most kids that get entrapped by drains are unable to free themselves and drown.
Local legislation regarding pool and spa safety is slow in coming with little or no regulation covering cover, barriers, alarms, dual drains, kill switches and safety vacuum release systems.
I personally have been urging Government for some time to consider legislation to ensure all pool company service crews, condo maintenance men and hotel engineering staff become certified pool operators. This should be the minimum qualification for anyone charged with the responsibility of providing a safe and clean swimming environment especially in resorts, hotels and condominiums.
The US is little better with pool safety mostly being regulated at the local level. There are few state level regulations and to the best of my knowledge no Federal regulations.
Preventing children’s access to the pool is the first step. An automatic pool safety cover is the best choice, also available are child safety nets and child safety fencing.
In conjunction with covers or fencing an alarm system can be considered. These range from built in sonar detectors, to splash/wave type alarms. Wrist bands that sound an alarm when they are immersed in water to a full perimeter laser beam alarm system. Doors or other access points to the pool area can also be alarmed.
All new pools should be built with dual main drains separated by a minimum of three feet, this splits the suction so should one be covered by a part of the body there would be no vacuum formed sucking the body to the drain cover as the second drain is still unblocked/uncovered.
All drain covers should be of the anti vortex type, but even these can be dangerous for children with long hair as their hair can be sucked into the drain cover and then knotted and tangled up under the cover preventing that person coming to the surface.
To prevent this most anti vortex covers can be replaced with an anti hair snare cover, which eliminates entanglement of the hair.
Vacuum release system
If you have an old pool with a single drain you can add a second drain whenever the pool needs to be drained to be resurfaced or renovated. However in the meantime you can make that single drain safer by adding a safety vacuum release system. This device is plumbed into the suction side of the pump and as soon as it detects a loss of flow to the pump and increased vacuum due to the drain being covered over it will shut off the pump which releases the suction of the body to the drain and allows the trapped person to come to the surface.
Most pumps pull water from both the drains and the skimmers. If the water level in the pool gets too low the skimmers will start sucking air. In a situation such as this the whole circulation system should be shut down until the water level can be restored.
If the skimmer valves are closed for any reason the pump is pulling 100 per cent of its water through the main drain, which greatly increases the risk of entrapment.
The valves controlling the main drains and skimmers should be set so the pump receives 25-50 per cent of its water through the drains and 50-75 per cent of its water from the skimmers.
A kill switch with audio and visual alarms should be installed on all commercial spas.
This should be located six to 15 feet from the spa and be very visible. It is usually a red button which once pressed will shut off the pumps and stop all circulation of water.
SVRS and kill switches can all be locally purchased and installed by any full service pool company.
This article mostly covers entrapment but many deaths and serious injuries are caused by diving, lack of parental supervision, inability to swim and getting out of one’s depth, improper use of slides, horseplay or swimming whilst intoxicated.
Most public aquatic facilities are well equipped with life rings, shepherds’ hooks, depth markers and rules signs, all of which are mandated by Government.
Don’t delay, talk to your pool professionals and find out more about what you can do to increase the safety of your pool.
To learn more about pool safety visit Pool Patrol’s website at www.poolpatrol.ky