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Beware of Pool Drains!

Updated on September 17, 2013

Pool Drains are not 100% safe - EVER! Learn how to make your pool safer!

Two children entrapped on swimming pool drains. One dies.

Beware of drains in swimming pools.

Another death from drain suction entrapment occurred, this time in Kentucky. A 14-year-old girl became entrapped on a drain in a community pool in Lexington, KY, July 20, 2008. Kiah Milsom's hand was stuck in the drain, keeping the teen submerged underwater for 20 minutes before rescue workers were able to release her. Although resuscitated, she died a week later due to severe oxygen deprivation and brain damage.

This death follows a Southwest Miami Dade 4-year-old girl who escaped death when her arm got stuck in a pool drain on July 16. The mother, Mrs. Schmidt-Cozier miraculously released her daughter Rose, and administered CPR. Rose is doing fine now.

The tragedy of drain entrapment (sometimes called suction entrapment) will continue as long as consumers remain unaware of the dangers of drains. In the last 20 years there have been nearly 50 entrapment deaths associated with main drains in swimming pools. That number is considered low as many of the deaths go reported as drowning rather than suction entrapment.

The more consumers understand the issue, the more demanding they can be of their pool builder or pool service. Thousands of existing pools with drains populate the United States. Unaware pool builders are still building pools with drains, a legalized hazard. In 2002, Florida lead the country in changing its building code to allow pool contractors the option of building pools without main drains. Still, since then, few contractors are doing so. Why is that? Old habits die hard is probably one good answer. (see Pool & Spa News )

My message today is two-fold. If you build a pool, please insist on a drain-free pool. If any builder tells you that your pool or spa needs a drain, know they haven't done their homework. And if they tell you a dual drain system with a vent-line or SVRS is protecting you, know that it is not a 100% safe solution. The only 100% safe solution is a drain-free pool. (In the Kentucky incident, neither a dual-drain nor a suction vacuum relief valve would have helped---the teen's hand was stuck in the pipe.)

My second message is that you please teach your children, grandchildren and friends about the dangers of drains. Even if you have an "entrapment-free pool" in your own backyard, your child will more than likely swim in a friend's pool, hotel pool or public pool that has a suction outlet (drain). Teach them to stay away from drains! Point out the drain to your kids at any pool, inspect it, and if anything looks odd, question the homeowner or pool maintenance person.

And last but not least, know where the pump shut off is located. If a person did become entrapped on the drain, often the only way to release him/her is to stop the suction. Suction from a fully covered drain is equal to approximately 700 pounds of pressure. For more details on this subject of pool drains and circulation, click on these links, Drains and Circulation.

Mark and Maria Slaby have 100+ entrapment-free pools in the Orlando area since they started their business in 2001. Maria initiated the change to the Florida Building code to allow pool contractors to build pools without drains.


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      7 years ago

      Warn parents of the dangers, but this should not prevent adults from using the pools. Why must so many of the laws to protect children infringe on the rights of adults. I'm not a Tea Party person, but in this case, government needs to step out.

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      7 years ago

      I agree that any child death in a pool is a tragedy. The Virginia Graeme Baker Act attempts to remedy this problem regarding suction entrapment.

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      Amy Appleton 

      8 years ago

      Seriously, where were the babysitter or parents?

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      8 years ago

      There should be someone monitoring children in the pool at all times, and that person should be fully aware of CPR and how to turn on / off mechanisms in the pool that could endanger someone.

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      Andrew Arvin 

      10 years ago

      I miss my kiah


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