Basic Pool Main Drain Safety to Minimize Risks of Entrapment

Posted by Michael Hervas on Mar 10, 2024

When you are feeling a little warm, stressed from work, or you just love to swim every now and then, take a cool and refreshing dip in a pool. While enjoying a swim alone or with family and friends, you must know about a hidden danger called pool main drain entrapment. This silent threat has already caused injuries and even deaths among unsuspecting swimmers around the world. Understanding the basics of pool main drain safety will keep us safe from accidents. Read on as we discuss in detail what a swimming pool drain entrapment is, the several types of entrapment, the consequences of entrapment, and how it can be prevented.

What is a Pool Drain Entrapment

A pool drain entrapment is when a swimmer gets trapped by the powerful suctioning of the swimming pool's main drain. A suctioning power could be so strong that even a strong swimmer can be held underwater and get drowned or injured. There are a few possible factors that could lead to an entrapment:

  1. Blockage or Debris Accumulation: Any debris - accumulated hair, clothing, or toys that can obstruct the swimming pool drain, and can result in an intensifying suction force and increase a swimmer's risk for entrapment.
  2. Poorly Designed or Installed Systems: Inadequate swimming pool circulation can create irregular patterns in water flow, leading to an intense suction near the main drain.
  3. Broken or Missing Drain Covers: Drains must be covered at all times. An unsecured drain can put swimmers in contact with the powerful suction of the drain.
  4. High-Powered Pumps: A pump with very high horsepower results in a dangerously high suction force, especially if the swimming pool also has a poorly designed plumbing system.

Types of Pool Drain Entrapment

There are several types of swimming pool drain entrapment , and each case has its own set of dangers:

  1. Body Entrapment: When a part of the swimmer's body becomes trapped against the drain cover due to a powerful suction force.
  2. Hair Entrapment: When a swimmer's hair gets entangled in the drain cover, immobilizing the swimmer for some time and potentially causing drowning.
  3. Limb Entrapment: When a swimmer's limb, such as a hand or foot, gets trapped in a broken or uncovered drain opening.
  4. Evisceration or Disembowelment: Considered the most severe form of swimming pool drain entrapment , when the body is pulled into an uncovered or broken drain opening, leading to internal injuries.

The Consequences of Entrapment

Every swimming pool owner needs to emphasize pool drain safety, as there are severe consequences of swimming pool entrapment. These can cause severe injuries and even result in fatalities. Hence, it is crucial to take all efforts to ensure the safety of swimmers:

  1. Drowning: When swimmers are held underwater for some time, it leads to suffocation and drowning if not rescued promptly.
  2. Traumatic Injuries: When accidentally trapped in the drain, a swimmer may sustain traumatic injuries such as lacerations, fractures, or damaged internal organs.
  3. Psychological Impact: Such incidents, even if non-life threatening, can leave permanent psychological scars on both the victim and witnesses, leading to fear and anxiety around water.
  4. Legal Repercussions: Swimming pool owners and operators are liable and may shoulder financial consequences in the event of entrapment incidents due to negligence or failure to adhere to safety regulations.

Preventive Measures

Preventing pool drain entrapment involves a comprehensive approach. It includes the proper design, installation, and maintenance of pool systems. Swimmers also need education and awareness of pool drain safety. Here are some preventive measures that must be in place:

  1. Installation of Compliant Drain Covers: A compliant and properly sized drain cover should meet safety standards, and is specifically designed to prevent entrapments. Make sure that drain covers are securely fastened and inspected regularly for damages. Regular inspection will ensure that all your drains are working.
  2. Installation of Multiple Drain Systems: Having multiple drains that have individual suction outlets, will reduce the suctioning power of each drain and, therefore minimize the dangers of entrapment.
  3. Utilizing Safety Vacuum Release Systems (SVRS): This device will automatically shut off the pool pump and release the suction as soon as it detects a blockage. With this system in place, you are preventing entrapment before it happens.
  4. Maintaining an Adequate Water Level: Keeping the water level above the midpoint of the skimmer or overflow system will prevent air from getting drawn to the circulatory system, which causes an increase in suction.
  5. Scheduled Inspection and Maintenance: Regular inspection of all your swimming pool equipment, from the pump, drain, and cover, will help ensure that the entire pool is functioning properly, and all issues must be addressed as soon as the need arises.
  6. Educating Pool Users: As a pool owner, it is best to take responsibility for educating swimmers on pool safety, how to recognize potential hazards, and the dangers of possible entrapment. Installing warning signs and visible signages around the pool area can be a huge help.
  7. Lifeguard: If your swimming pool is open for public use, always have a lifeguard during pool operation hours. Also, do not allow kids to swim without adult supervision.
  8. Prepare for Emergency: Even if your swimming pool is for private use only, knowing the basic rescue procedures and first aid techniques makes you aware of what to do in case of emergencies.

Safety and security should always be the priority of every swimming pool owner. Although a swimming pool drain entrapment can pose a really serious threat to pool users, when you have the right precautions in place, such incidents can be effectively prevented.

In 2007, the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (VGB) was created. Named after Virginia Baker, who died in a pool drain accident, the VGB law focuses on preventing entrapment, where people can get stuck in drains. This U.S. law sets standards for anti-entrapment devices, like drain covers, to reduce the risk of accidents. The goal is to ensure pools and spas are safer, preventing injuries and deaths caused by entrapment incidents.

VGB Compliant Pool Drain Cover

When one has a clear understanding of the causes and consequences of a pool drain entrapment, it becomes easier to implement a safety protocol for owners and swimming pool users. Also, when you know for a fact that you are swimming in a safe place, you get to enjoy the full benefits of swimming.

Always keep in mind that safeguarding must not be overlooked or taken lightly. It is important to ensure the safety of all swimming pool users. Knowing the basics of pool main drain safety will prevent any potential risks and harm.

PST Pool Supplies sells VGB-compliant main drains and VBG compliant drain covers.