Press Release by John Monaco and Al Gustafson:
No one expects a tragedy to strike them, however, each year, more than 300 children under the age of 5, drown in residential swimming pools nationwide. Unfortunately this tragedy occurs typically in a family-owned pool. In addition, more than 2,000 children in that age group are treated in hospital emergency rooms for submersion injures. The easiest safeguard to prevent an accidental drowning or injury, is to be certain the pooi complies with state and local building code regulations.
Before considering the purchase of a swimming pooi, all homeowners, landlords or tenants, need to be aware that a building permit is required if the pooi is capable of holding a depth of more than 24 inches of water. This also includes the storable, usually inflatable, pools purchased at local department stores. If a rigid sidewall pool, (not including inflated or storable pools), is less than 48” high, a minimum four-foot high fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate is required. In addition to a safe enclosure, electrical connections must be installed to meet the electric code, and must be inspected by an approved electrical inspector. Any existing pooi is also required to comply with the enclosure safety regulations. In addition to these electrical and barrier requirements, all pools must be equipped with a pool alarm that is capable of detecting whenever a child enters the water by sounding an audible alarm. Landlords may also be responsible for any unauthorized action of a tenant. Pool owners are also encouraged to check with their insurance company for any additional safety requirements.
To ensure swimming pool safety during the upcoming pool season, pool owners are urged to contact their local building department before purchasing or installing any swimming pooi, hot tub or spa. As trained professionals they are able to answer questions and guide the owner through the permit process.
- Western Southern Tier Building Officials Association
The Western Southern Tier Building Officials Association (WSTBOA) is comprised of municipal code enforcement officials and building inspectors throughout the western southern tier of New York State. Their mission is to promote professionalism and consistency in the application and enforcement of building codes. Those goals are achieved through education, development, practice and enforcement of building codes. WSTBOA holds regular meetings every month on the 2nd Thursday of each month. For more information, contact President John Monaco at (716) 679-2313.
"These deaths are preventable and that alone makes her loss all the more difficult and infuriating to accept."
"I cannot accept that there are pools and spas being used and contructed today with equipment designed and installed that can lead to death, evisceration, or permanent injury for their survivors."
Background on suction hazard and new anti-suction safety requirements (from James Baker site on wikipedia.org): "On June 15, 2002, Graeme Baker, the 7-year-old granddaughter of James Baker III, daughter of Nancy and James Baker IV, was the victim of suction entrapment[click here for link]. To promote safer pools and spas, Nancy Baker gave testimony to the Consumer Product Safety Commission [click here for link] and James Baker III helped formed an advocacy group [click here for link] which led to the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (15 USC 8001)[click here for link]."
Written Submission from Nancy BakerJul 27 2004 12:00AM
Office of the Secretary
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Washington, D.C. 20207
Re: Written Submission of Nancy Baker for the Commissions Public Hearing on July 27, 2004 in Phoenix, Arizona on suction entrapment.
Good morning, my name is Nancy Baker and I would like to thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to speak to you about the issue of swimming pool and spa drain suction entrapment and the scores of children that are killed, maimed or disabled every year by this completely preventable event.
On June 15, 2002, my daughter, Graeme died. She was 7 years old when her life ended. Her death certificate lists her cause of death a drowning. My child did not die in an accidental drowning. She was killed when she became stuck on the drain of a swimming pool spa. This drain had so much suction force that it took two adult males all of their strength to pull her from the drain.
Graeme was a strong and beautiful and healthy child. She was a member of our community swim and dive team who had been swimming unassisted since she was 3 years old. Her abilities as a swimmer are not what caused her to lose her life.
On that day in June, I took my five daughters to a graduation party being hosted by the family of a young man that my family knew. The party took place outdoors and was centered around my friend's pool/spa in their backyard. Graeme had come to the party dressed in her bathing suit and immediately entered the pool. Her sisters had gone inside to change so they could go swimming too. After being at the party for a short time, I looked for Graeme and noticed she was not in the pool. A short time later, my 12 year old daughter came running towards me, terror in her eyes. It was Jackie, Graeme's twin sister, that had found her there. I ran to the spa but could not see Graeme anywhere in the spa water. My daughter continued to insist that Graeme was in the spa. The bubbles generated by the spa and the color of the water were obscuring my vision.
I jumped into the spa and what I saw will haunt me for the rest of my life. It is one of those moments that leaves a permanent etching in your memory that I will never be able to erase. What I saw was Graeme's lifeless body, her limbs moving only due to the currents created by the bubbling water generated by the spa. The horror of this picture defies description. I immediately tried to pull Graeme from the spa but her body could not be moved. I remember thinking that she had been murdered as she appeared to be attached to the bottom of the spa, like she was tied down or someone had weighted her down so she could not come up to the surface. I could not make sense of her being trapped at the bottom of the spa, what on earth could be holding her on the bottom. I simply had no frame of reference to help me comprehend this dilemma.
Two adult men at the party entered the spa and began trying to free Graeme from the bottom. They eventually were able to free her, only after pulling her so hard the drain cover itself broke free. Graeme's lifeless body was laid on the side of the pool and people began lifesaving efforts. It was surreal to watch these events occurring to my own daughter. Of course as we know today, Graeme was not able to be saved by the efforts of the people at the pool, paramedics or physicians at the hospital. Our Graeme was dead.
In the aftermath of Graeme's death, I struggled to understand how such a thing could happen. I could not comprehend how a child so well trained in swimming and so healthy and strong could fall victim to being stuck on a drain of a spa. It was an explanation that seemed to defy logic. What I have learned in my quest to understand this problem has not only horrified me but given me the resolve to make sure that Graeme's death will not be in vain. I and Graeme's dad, James Baker, will do all we can to insure that no other mother, father, sister, brother, grandmother, grandfather or anyone else has to endure the horror, loss and grief that my family continues to suffer from as I speak to you today.
For you see what I have learned since I began looking into this issue is that this very Commission has known that suction entrapment in pools and spas has been killing, disemboweling and maiming children since 1973. Not only has CPSC been aware of this issue but so have the manufacturers of swimming pool pumps, drains, drain covers, and other swimming pool and spa equipment. There have been warnings, suggestions, investigations, and studies that have occurred during these 31 years and yet hundreds of children have drowned, been disemboweled or are disabled as a result of being entrapped in the drains of pools and spas. These various safety efforts such as dual drains, vent pipes, modified drain covers, etc., although well intentioned, unfortunately in certain circumstances fail or are ineffective.
During the last 10 to 15 years there has been available to the industry a safety device that would essentially eliminate the risk of children being killed or injured due to suction entrapment. These devices are commonly referred to as safety vacuum release systems (SVRS). The various safety and construction methods that have been presented and used in the past by swimming pool pump manufacturers and contractors, such as dual drains, vent pipes, and anti-vortex drain covers, have not eliminated the problem of suction entrapment and children continue to die. The "SVRS" systems serve as a sort of back up fail safe system so that when these other safety designs fail, and we know they do, the SVRS will activate and relieve the suction from the drain, thus freeing any trapped child. A device like this on the drain of the spa that Graeme was stuck on would have saved her life.
Over the past years numerous efforts have been made to have the swimming pool and spa industry, including manufacturers and contractors, adopt and accept this SVRS safety systems. For reasons that are unclear the manufacturers and contractors continue to insist that the systems they have in place now are adequate and SVRS's are not needed. This position is taken in spite of the fact that manufacturers and contractors know the current systems fail and that children continue to die.What is even more distressing is that the manufacturers' and contractors primary association, The National Spa and Pool Institute, has actively lobbied various state legislatures to keep the legislatures from amending the apporpriate building codes in their states to require these SVRS devices be installed. Why? These devices range in cost from $250 to as much as $1,500 and perhaps more, but when compared to the overall cost of constructing a swimming pool/spa the cost is insignificant, especially when it will prevent the death of a child.
Just last summer I visited the largest retail pool supply company in the Washington, D.C. area. I asked the staff specifically how I could best avoid the danger of entrapment in my pool and spa and not one of the salespersons had any idea of what entrapment was, nor could they find, within the store, any literature or guidelines on the subject. This sort of conduct by an industry tells me that unless it is forced to do so it will not take the steps necessary to protect swimmers, and in particular children, from the known hazard of suction entrapment.
My little girl was beginning her life and it was tragically cut short. Our lives have been inalterably changed by the circumstances of her senseless death. I intend to do everything within my power to make sure that no other child and no other family ever sustains a loss of the magnitude that my family has suffered. These deaths are preventable and that alone makes her loss all the more difficult and infuriating to accept. I cannot accept that there are pools and spas being used and contructed today with equipment designed and installed that can lead to death, evisceration, or permanent injury for their survivors. The industry and its association have exhibited a total unwillingness to address this problem voluntarily and as a result hundreds of additional children have died. I am here to urge you to stop these senseless deaths and mandate appropriate changes to the building codes of this country to see that this suffering ends. You have the power to save lives, please do not sit idly by and continue to watch these children die. Thank You.
Baker family motivated by the death of 7-year-old Virginia Graeme Baker
(Washington, DC – May 2, 2006) James A. Baker, III, Secretary of State under former President George Bush, and daughter-in-law Nancy Baker are supporting new legislation expected to be introduced shortly in connection with Safe Kids Week that would offer incentive grants to states that pass laws requiring safeguards to prevent drowning, drain entrapment and entanglement in swimming pools and spas.
Baker’s granddaughter, Virginia Graeme Baker, died four years ago when she became entrapped in the drain of a spa. It took several adults to help pry her free from the force of the drain, but it was to no avail. She had drowned. This tragedy occurred at a graduation party that was well supervised by scores of adults.
“We were absolutely devastated. Graeme was an angel on loan to us for seven years,” said Mr. Baker. “Before it happened I didn’t think it was possible that a child could be entrapped in the drain of a spa. I’m here to say it is possible, but it is absolutely preventable with the installation of safeguards as well as awareness by parents and pool owners.”
Secretary Baker spoke publicly for the first time about his granddaughter at the National Safe Kids Week kick-off event at the U.S. Capitol Reflecting Pool. “We hope Graeme’s story and the passage of this new legislation will help save lives.”
The proposed legislation to be introduced by U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) is modeled after a law, enacted in 2000, which she sponsored as a state legislator in her home state of Florida. It would provide incentive grants for states that make pool and spa safety devices mandatory – such as drain covers that comply with Consumer Product Safety Commission guidelines, safety vacuum release systems, multiple drains and four-sided fences. At least four states have laws addressing barrier requirements for residential swimming pools, and currently no state has enacted a comprehensive safety law, incorporating all layers of protection, for both residential and public pools and spas.
Entrapment occurs when part of a child’s body becomes attached to a drain because of the powerful suction of a pool or spa’s filtration system. It also can occur when a child’s hair or swimsuit gets tangled in the drain or on an underwater object, such as a ladder.
From 1985 to 2004, records show that at least 33 children ages 14 and under died as a result of pool and spa entrapment, and nearly 100 children were seriously injured. But according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Safe Kids Worldwide, the number of entrapment deaths could be much higher than reported. Because entrapment is generally a little-known risk for drowning, it is possible that many drowning deaths have not been classified as entrapment.
“If the safeguards proposed in the legislation had been in place, Graeme’s death may have been prevented,” said Nancy Baker, Graeme’s mother. “Entrapment is a very real danger for children in swimming pools and spas. State laws must mandate the layers of protection that have been proven to save lives.”
New research conducted for National Safe Kids Week (May 6 to 13) shows only one third (34 percent) of parents with children aged 14 or under in the household recognize that drowning is one of the top two causes of accidental death among children, and that 66 percent are not at all or only somewhat familiar with the threat of drain entrapment and entanglement. Both of these findings are alarming because research reveals that pool and spa ownership is becoming more popular. One out of two parents report that they have a pool or spa at home (49 percent).
This research from Safe Kids Worldwide and sponsored by Johnson & Johnson tells a grim story of parents’ lack of understanding of the dangers of pool and spa drains. The research also suggests parents’ confidence in their children’s safety while swimming may be higher than their children’s abilities in the swimming pool, leaving children exposed to unnecessary risks.
"A child is no match for the powerful suction of a drain," said Martin Eichelberger, M.D., president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide and director of Emergency and Burn Services at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. "The dangers of the drain can easily be mitigated with the right equipment. Parents should warn their children to stay away from drains and install safety devices if they own a pool or spa."
National Safe Kids Week has been held annually for 13 years. This year’s theme is Safe Pools for Safe Kids and more than 300 Safe Kids Week events will take place across the nation to educate parents and pool owners about how to keep kids safe from drowning.
AG106.1 General. Suction outlets shall be designed to produce circulation throughout the pool or spa. Single outlet systems, such as automatic vacuum cleaner systems, or other such multiple suction outlets whether isolated by valves or otherwise shall be protected against user entrapment.
1. All Pool and Spa suction outlets shall be provided with a cover that conforms with ANSI/ASME A112.19.8M, or a 12 ² × 12 ² drain grate or larger, or an approved channel drain system.
Exception: Surface skimmers
AG106.3 Atmospheric vacuum relief system required. All pool and spa single or multiple outlet circulation systems shall be equipped with atmospheric vacuum relief should grate covers located therein become missing or broken. Such vacuum relief systems shall include at least one approved or engineered method of the type specified herein, as follows:
1. Safety vacuum release system conforming to ASME A112.19.17, or
2. An approved gravity drainage system
AG106.4 Dual drain separation. Single or multiple pump circulation systems shall be provided with a minimum of two (2) suction outlets of the approved type. A minimum horizontal or vertical distance of three (3) feet shall separate such outlets. These suction outlets shall be piped so that water is drawn through them simultaneously through a vacuum relief-protected line to the pump or pumps.
AG106.5 Pool cleaner fittings. Where provided, vacuum or pressure cleaner fitting(s) shall be located in an accessible position(s) at least (6) inches and not greater than twelve (12) inches below the minimum operational water level or as an attachment to the skimmer(s).
The Vac-Alert VA2000 is listed (014545) with Applied Research Laboratories (ARL) and met or exceeded the ASME/ANSI 112.19.17 Manufactured Safety Vacuum Release System (SVRS) for residential commercial swimming pool, spa, hot tub, and wading pool suction systems.
Vac-Alert's VA-2000 complies with ASME/ANSI A112.19.17 as required by the International Building Codes (IBC) and the International Residential Codes (IRC)
The International Code Council's International Building Codes and International Residential Codes, as well as the Consumer Product Safety Commission's Guidelines, include language on the use of Safety Vacuum Release Systems.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is an agency that "accredits" standards promulgators such as ASME, ASTM & NSPI. This is the national system for insuring that standards development organizations follow strict procedures and maintain a true consensus process.
International Code Council (ICC) - The ICC was established in 1994 as a non profit organization dedicated to the development of a single set of comprehensively nationally recognized construction codes.
The International Building Code (IBC) and the International Residential Code (IRC) both mandate "three layers of protection." IBC 3109.5 and IRC AG 106 require all pools and spas (regardless of water depth) to be equipped with an accepted method for vacuum relief. These codes call for devises that meet ASME A112.19.17 standards to provide this vacuum relief. The vast majority of state and local governments utilize the IBC and the IRC codes as models for their own codes.
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) - The CPSC published Guidelines for Entrapment Hazards: Making Pools and Spas Safer in March 2005. Included in the recommendations is the use of SVRSs for newly constructed pools and existing pools……………
"Due to care and maintenance concerns associated with circulation systems that include suction outlets (main drains) and covers, consideration should be given to the installation of a back-up systems that relieves entrapping suction and/or shuts down the pump when a blockage is detected [ e.g., an SVRS]………"
TEMPERATURE WARNING ON THE VA2000
The Model VA-2000 meets or exceeds the -40F to 140F temperature performance testing set by the ASME/ANSI A112.19.17 Standard for Manufacturing.
Safety Vacuum Release Systems. We strongly suggest that the VA2000 not be left in below freezing temperatures where the circulation system is not continually running or not protected by a pump house. In such cases, condensation could freeze piping and ice may impair or disable the safety features of the VA-2000. For installations that require winterization, the Model VA-2000 should be removed and stored , and then re-installed upon system start-up.