SOURCE: Pool Safety Consortium

June 19, 2008 16:17 ET

Consumer Product Safety Commission Releases Suction Entrapment Safety Standards Pertaining to Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act

Requires All New and Existing Public Pools and Spas to Become Compliant Before December 18, 2008

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - June 19, 2008) - On June 18, 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released its guidance document outlining safety standards resulting from the passage of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act passed last December affecting all public pools and spas. This Federal act preempts all state laws, and those not complying risk fines up to $1.8 million and/or criminal prosecution, after December 18, 2008.

A public pool or spa is defined as one that is either generally open to the public, or is open exclusively to any one of the following groups: members of an organization and their guests; residents of a multiunit apartment building, apartment complex, residential real estate development or other multifamily residential area; or patrons of a hotel or other public accommodations facility.

The Act, named after Graeme, the daughter of Nancy Baker and the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker, died in a tragic incident in June 2002 after the suction from a spa drain entrapped her underwater. This Act was first introduced by Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (FL) and was supported by the Baker family and Safe Kids Worldwide.

"The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act was a necessary step toward eliminating the risk of entrapment in pools and spas around the country," said Paul Pennington, founding member of the Pool Safety Consortium. "Unfortunately, there continues to be a shocking number of child deaths and injuries resulting from suction entrapment. Therefore we must continue to develop Federal and state legislation in support of pool and spa safety."

The Act requires various layers of protection to prevent serious injuries or death by drowning such as anti-entrapment drain covers, safety vacuum release systems and gravity drain systems.

According to the Act, public pools and spas, including those with multiple main drains, must be equipped with compliant anti-entrapment drain covers. In an effort to prevent hair entanglement, these covers cannot have a suction/flow of more than 1.5 cubic feet per second. Examples of compliant drain covers include Drainsafe DS360 and Hayward Pool Products SP1153 AV and SP1154 AV. What's more, non-compliant public pools and spas will not be permitted to open.

In addition to having a compliant drain cover, public pools and spas with a single main drain (other than an unblockable drain) must be equipped at a minimum with one complying anti-entrapment device or system. Drain covers can become broken or deteriorated, which is why additional anti-entrapment safety devices are required. In fact, some states and municipalities already require a third layer of protection on all pools/spas, even those with multiple drains. It's not uncommon for dual drains sharing the same pump to become blocked by debris, towels, pool toys, etc.

CPSC recommended anti-entrapment devices or systems include:

1. Safety Vacuum Release Systems (SVRS) - Ceases operation of pump, reverses the circulation flow or otherwise provides a vacuum release at a suction outlet when a blockage is detected. An SVRS can be installed in either existing or new pools in under an hour for about $500-$700. Representative brands include Vac-Alert Industries, Stingl, Hayward Pool Products and A.O. Smith Company.

2. Suction-Limiting Vent System - While not widely used, these systems introduce air into the suction line thus causing the pump to lose prime and relieve the suction forces at the main drain. The installation of these systems in existing pools is not practical and would require a rebuild of the pool.

3. Gravity Drainage System - These have gained popularity in states such as Florida and are practical for new pool construction. This device uses a collector tank with a separate water storage vessel from which the pump draws water. Water moves from the pool to the collector tank due to atmospheric pressure, limiting drain suction forces.

4. Automatic Pump Shut-Off System - A device that senses a drain blockage and shuts off the pump system. Some SVRS devices may meet this definition. Currently there is no industry standard for automatic pump shut-off systems. However, the current SVRS standards provide release and response time of under three seconds.

5. Other Systems - Any other system determined by CPSC to be equally effective as, or better than, the systems described above. This will allow the development of future products.

Public pools in use are required to become compliant with Section 1404 of the Act on or before December 18, 2008, or they will not be permitted to open to the public.

For more information on the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act or the CPSC staff interpretations, please contact the Pool Safety Consortium at 877-222-4289 or visit

The Pool Safety Consortium is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC. Having began as an informative database for industry leaders and tradesmen providing current standards of international and state codes, it has since evolved into much more. Currently, the Consortium works to educate the consumer on current legislation as well as available safety devices to help protect children and the lives of others from swimming pool and spa tragedies.

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