Pool drains have long been a safety issue, especially with small children. However, there is little public education or awareness of how dangerous these drains can be. Sometimes it takes a near-tragedy in a public figure’s life to bring the needed attention to promote safety.
In the first week of August, the Grammy winning singer and actor Usher’s five year old son was entrapped in a pool drain at his Atlanta home. The boy fell to the bottom of the pool and became ensnared in the pool drain, unable to break free. The adults at the home tried unsuccessfully to free him, however, a subcontractor working on the premise was able to pull the boy from the drain and give him CPR.
Not A Isolated Incident
Usher’s son is lucky to have survived this accident as many other children have not. There have been dozens of deaths and many more injuries caused by pool drain safety issues. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there have been 94 injuries from entrapment between 1999 and 2009 including a dozen deaths. From 1990 to 2004, there were at least 25 deaths from pool drain accidents.
Pool Drain Entrapment Hazards
The concern with pool drains is the amount of water pressure that they can exert, very similar to a vacuum. A standard pool drain can exert 350 pounds of pressure to pull water through. While pool drains come with a cover to dissipate this suction pressure, they can be faulty or break. When this happens, a child can become stuck to or in the drain, resulting in injury or drowning. The CPSC has identified five different types of drain entrapment:
- Body entrapment. Body entrapment is when the torso or a portion of the torso becomes entrapped in the pool drain. Even drains with covers can have strong suction when completely covered by the torso, trapping the person or child against the drain.
- Limb entrapment. If a portion or all the drain cover is missing, a hand, arm or leg can be pulled into the drain pipe.
- Hair entrapment. Long hair can easily be pulled into the pool drain, keeping the persons head under water with danger of drowning.
- Mechanical entrapment. Clothing, jewelry and other objects on a person or child can be pulled into a pool drain or caught in the drain cover or grate.
- Evisceration. One of the most ghastly entrapment scenarios is when the buttock region becomes suctioned to the pool drain and can cause disembowelment. At least 36 children have been killed this way since 1990.
The CPSC recommends that pool drain covers be regularly inspected to make sure they are in good working condition. In addition, children should be made aware to stay away from drain areas as well as be under adult supervision at all time. All loose objects, including hair, should not be allowed to dangle freely in a pool. Installing a Safety Vacuum Release System (SVRS) that shuts off the pool pump at any detection of a blockage is also a good preventive measure.
Everyone is surely glad that Usher’s son was not more seriously harmed from the incident. The one benefit of the accident was that it has brought needed awareness to these potentially dangerous mechanisms that are so common in many people’s own backyards.
For further information on swimming pool drain safety: