Avoiding Drain Entrapment

Avoiding Drain Entrapment

 | Monday, February 27, 2017

Since the 1980's there have been at least 147 incidents documented of drain entrapment in swimming pools, including 36 deaths. Suction entrapment occurs when a swimmer, usually a small child, is trapped by the suction forces created by the water rushing out of the drain at the bottom of the pool. In some cases swimmers have been trapped underwater until they drowned and in others they have suffered serious injuries to various parts of their bodies.


In December 19, 2008, compliance with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act became required. The law states that all public facilities — including country clubs, HOA’s, apartment pools must meet specified performance standards; failure to do so could result in fines of up to $1.8 million or jail.  


The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act does not affect all commercial pools. Many pools are already in compliance.  Older pools that have a single main drain need to take this very seriously.  The “fix” can be as simple as installing a safety device that would immediately shut the pump off if the drain is obstructed.  In addition, manufacturers are in the process of designing safer drain grates that are anti-suction. Some of the smaller sizes are already available.                                                                


1.  The law is designed to prevent harm to swimmers from drain entrapment.  (See picture above of a person who experienced entrapment and survived)


2.  If the pool drains are not directly connected to a pump suction (flows into a surge tank or vacuum-type filter that is open to atmosphere) then nothing needs to be done.


3.  Until such time as practical, accredited products are available for the drains that are directly connected – install an automatic vacuum safety shutoff/anti-entrapment device on the pump suction line. 


4.  As a practical matter, there may not be viable, accredited products on the market for large commercial size drains until sometime in mid to late 2009 – so do what you can to be as protected as possible in the meantime.  We are monitoring the “hotlines” from various manufacturers and will do our best to stay abreast of the situation and available products as they develop.


Many pools are already compliant  and will not have to do anything.  Residential in ground pools with only one main drain in the bottom are the main problems.   Commercial pools with 2 main drains that are connected under-ground by an equalizer line, most are, will be exempt.  The only way to be sure of this is to reference a copy of the pool piping construction drawings.  Also, pools with vacuum DE filters will be exempt.  It’s those single drain pools on a closed pressure system like a sand filter or cartridge filter that need to be addressed.  The best “fix” to date is to install a "Safety Vacuum Release System," (SVRS) by Stingl.  The SVRS monitors the vacuum on the suction side of the pool or spa pump. When blockage occurs in the main drain or skimmers, a sudden rise in vacuum will cause the SVRS to shut down pump operation and activate an audible alarm (optional). The pump will remain off until manually reset.  This retrofit is about $600 plus freight and installation not including audible alarm.


For more information please contact mnelson@usaswimming.org



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