Down the Drain: Pool Drain Suction Accidents

Down the Drain: Pool Drain Suction Accidents
When it comes to owning a pool, most people are aware of the dangers of someone falling into the water. However, many swimmers are completely unaware of pool drain suction accidents.

The Hidden Hazard of Pool Drain Suction Accidents

As we’ve often written, a pool fence is an extremely useful layer of protection. It provides a barrier to entry around the pool area that is superb for keeping little ones and pets out of harm’s way. On the other hand, pool drain suction accidents are a totally different story. This hazard happens when a person is already in the water.

Understanding Drainage

Before we start, let’s discuss how the drain in your pool actually works. As you’re probably aware, swimming pools tend to get pretty dirty over time. Your filtration system uses a drain to suck certain debris from the water. This can include dirt, leaves, body oil, loose hair… you name it. Keeping the water clean is a dirty job, but your drain is up to the task!

Unfortunately, this powerful drain is not without some inherent risk. Pool drain suction accidents occur when people don’t pay close enough attention to this potential danger. You see, a person can become trapped by the drain’s suction, which can lead to drowning. Admittedly, drownings via pool drain suction accidents are not as common as other dangers. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were only 33 reported cases between 2009 and 2013. That said, when pool drain suction accidents do occur, they tend to be very serious. More often than not, young children are the victims. When all is said and done, even one death is far too many when a little knowledge can go a long way in preventing these tragedies.

Examples of Drain Danger

So what exactly causes pool drain suction accidents? Well, it’s not a very long list, but it can be graphic:

  • Long hair can become trapped in the drain, holding the victim’s head under the water.
  • If a part of your body covers the drain, it too can quickly be held by powerful suction, preventing you from reaching the surface. In some drains, people can even get their arm or leg caught inside the mechanism.
  • Similarly, dangling objects such as jewelry or swim trunk strings can be sucked into the drain, trapping the victim.
  • Finally, the most graphic cause of drowning on this list is evisceration. Though it is very rare, this happens when a person sits directly on the drain. The suction can cause major internal organ damage in addition to trapping them under the water.

Most importantly, we encourage people to avoid wearing loose items. Tying up your hair is also an excellent safety precaution to avoid pool drain suction accidents.

Keep Your Drains Compliant

Fortunately, most pools tend to have drains specifically designed to avoid these types of incidents. That’s because of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, which was named for Virginia Graeme Baker, a little girl who tragically perished after becoming trapped by a hot tub drain. According to the law, all pools and hot tubs must use a drain cover that’s specifically designed to prevent entrapment. These curved drain covers make it significantly harder for a person to be held under the water via pool drain suction accidents. Be sure your drain is compliant with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act before you allow anyone to swim.

Active Supervision and Kids

To help children avoid pool drain suction accidents, the first thing they’ll need is education. Once they know about the danger, the little ones will be far more likely to stay away from the potentially hazardous drain.

In addition to that, active supervision is a great way to help keep kids safe. A responsible adult should always be watching any swimming children. This means that the adult will be completely free from distractions, including books, phones and even conversation, while supervising. An active supervisor needs to keep a close eye on the kids and remain close to them at all times. This way, the adult will be able to spring into action and hopefully prevent any potential tragedies should a swimmer need help.