Thursday, May 28, 2009

This summer thousands of public pools will be closed, because the granddaughter of Sec James Baker died in the drain of a hot tub at home.

FD: Heard about this on NPR radio...

Swimming Pool and Spa Safety Starts with You!
Recreational time at public and residential swimming pools and spas is a favorite activity for children and adults all over the country. Whether enjoying pool time with family and friends, exercising, playing water sports, or learning to swim, everyone needs to be mindful of the potential for incidents and drownings in pools and spas.

Each year, nearly 300 children under the age of five drown in residential and public pools and spas. Submersion incidents requiring emergency-room treatment or hospitalization number in the thousands and many victims experience permanent disability, including brain damage.

Few people know of the hidden dangers from drain or suction entrapments. Drains with broken, missing, or faulty covers can entrap hair, the body, limbs, jewelry and clothing, or cause disembowelment/evisceration.

On December 17, 2007, the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (P&SSAct) was signed into law.

This important child safety law became effective in December 2008 and strives to:

Enhance the safety of public and private pools and spas
Encourage the use of layers of protection
Reduce child drownings in pools and spas (295 each year involving children younger than 5)
Reduce the number of suction entrapment incidents, injuries and deaths
Educate the public on the importance of constant supervision of children in and around water

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is the lead agency in implementing and enforcing the P&SSAct. CPSC is working with other safety groups in the pool and spa safety community to encourage the use of layers of protection--such as fencing around pools, constant supervision, and requiring anti-entrapment drain covers and other safety devices.
Join the Pool/Spa information e-mail list to receive periodic updates from CPSC.

Wading pools closed
Letters editor
Strict law deprives kids of summer play
The Virginia Graham Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act was enacted to prevent drowning by body/hair entrapment from the suction of recirculating water through main drains. It will possibly save a few lives.
But it was politically backed (who could vote against it?, tightly worded (no allowance for common-sense solutions) and the cost of compliance is not addressed, except for the hint of federal-assistance funds from a presently unfunded source.

Now city kids will be deprived from the pleasure of wading pools because city parks personnel find it easier and prudent not to challenge the King County Health Department storm troopers and their rigid interpretations and enforcement of the law ["Around the Northwest: 11 wading pools closed over safety," NWThursday, May 21].

Permitting fees amount to at least $346 and $173.39 per hour for extended plan reviews and inspections. Costs for a plumber, electrician and an engineer add up to several thousand dollars per pool. And the hassle cost to other owners and operators of pools, including our condominium association, aren't included.

Simpler methods to avoid entrapment could be implemented at almost no cost.Pumps and fountains could be turned off during operating hours and the filtration done separately. Any sort of construction that reduced the velocity of the water and separated drain openings would do.
Boulders around the drain, a circle of side-placed concrete blocks, an oversized additional drain cover or other American-ingenuity-inspired methods could allow the kids to safely play.

There needs to be some way for common sense to be exercised to meet the intent of the law without the outlandish costs.
The federal law and King County Health Department's enforcement tenacity are not improving my quality of life, nor that of the neighborhood kids.
-- Terry Slaton, Federal Way, WA


New Safety Requirementsat Local Pools
Updated: Friday, 22 May 2009, 5:57 PM EDTPublished : Friday, 22 May 2009, 5:05 PM EDT
Beth Parker
By BETH PARKER/myfoxdc
FAIRFAX, Va. - 'Pool open.' They're the two words folks love to hear this time of year.
For years, inspectors have been working to prevent accidents by securing things like railings and making sure the depth of the water is clearly marked. This year, they are dealing with a new law.

The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act is named for the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker. The 7-year-old girl drowned in 2002 when the suction from a drain held her under water.

The new law says you have to have anti-entrapment covers and a back-up safety system, so just about every public pool in the nation had some work to do to comply. New 'Ts' in the underground pipes mean you'll now see two drains instead of one, so there are two suction points.

Matt Behl of NVpools says if you look closely, you'll notice new grates over the drains. One is called 'the wave.' The contour of the plastic means there's always space for water to flow in so a person cannot be pulled down flat against the grate.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says there have been 83 fatal pool drain entrapments in recent years, including the one that killed Virginia Graeme Baker.

This new law took effect this past December. That means indoor pools have already been dealing with it. The law does not apply to backyard pools-- only those considered public pools.
It was 35 down and 17 to go Thursday as Caroline Calderone Baisley counted down to Memorial Day. The unofficial start of summer is this weekend, and according to the director of health, more than a dozen outdoor public pools will not be allowed to open to swimmers. That includes pools at country clubs and condominium associations that receive licenses from the town’s Department of Health.

“This is a safety issue,” Ms. Baisley told the Board of Health Tuesday.

The subject of the concern is the pools’ compliance (or lack thereof) with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. Signed into law in December 2007, the act mandates that pool drain covers conform to certain standards so as to avoid suction entrapment. A Greenwich child drowned after his arm got caught in a suction drain of his private home in July, 2007. Ms. Baisley said the federal act was not a response to that incident, but was a response to a fatal accident.

It went into effect Dec. 19 of last year, and while indoor pools under the town health department’s purview have all complied, about 14 or so of the 52 outdoor pools will be noncompliant come Saturday.

On Thursday, Ms. Baisley told the Post that about three pools were in the process of becoming compliant. Those that are not compliant were to receive notices of violation this week, ordering them not to open.

“Some of those [noncompliant] pools won’t be opening this weekend anyway,” Ms. Baisley said. “Some are condos that have pool drains taken care of and all the building department is waiting for is certification paperwork.”

The paperwork is a necessary part of compliance with the law. Certification must be made by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. Public pools and spas built before Dec. 19, 2007, are not compliant with the law unless they were built without submerged suction outlets, or the suction system has since been modified to comply.

Ms. Baisley said the equipment and parts needed to make drains compliant under the Baker act is readily available, it’s just a matter of the pool facility managers making the updates as pool maintenance workers become busy during the summer season.

“We work really hard to get everybody knowledgable about what they need to do,” Ms. Baisley said Thursday. Information about the new law was sent out last fall, she said.
This week, Ms. Baisley said, she or a member of her staff has talked to almost all the noncompliant pool managers personally to urge them to become compliant.

“The drain covers they’re supposed to have in pools eliminate the risk of becoming entrapped,” she said. “The history of the act does involve a tragic accident where a child did drown and got sucked in,” she added.

Ms. Baisley said the notices of violation to the noncompliant pools were to be posted at each facility, each of which can still open this weekend, just not for swimming.
“We want everybody to open, we want everyone to be able to enjoy the pool this year, but we certainly dont’ want any tragic events,” Ms. Baisley said Tuesday.
She added that the town-run pool at Byram Park is compliant with the standards of the new law.
More about the Baker act is available

The Eudora Aquatic Center likely will open this weekend unless Mayor Scott Hopson and member of the Eudora City Council decides otherwise.
The pool was scheduled to open for Memorial Day Weekend but did not
Because of a new federal law that required all public pools to be retrofitted with suction entrapment detection devices to prevent the number of suction entrapment incidents that lead to injuries and deaths.
Parks and Recreation Director Tammy Hodges said an anti-vortex fitting likely would be installed on the main drain this week, and other various grates will be installed that would conform the pool to the standards of the law.

The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act was enacted in December after 5-year-old Virginia Graeme Baker drowned when she became stuck in the suction drain of a spa.

Hodges said she and former Eudora city administrator Cheryl Beatty were aware of the law and called engineering firm BG Consultants, who oversaw construction of the pool in 2007. BG said the pool was up to code.
However, Hodges said Richard Ziesenis, environmental health director for Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, told her last week the pool would need to be brought up to code.
If the city were to have suction entrapment detectors installed, the pool would be in line with the law, Ziesenis told Hodges. The devices would cost about $1,500.
Despite the recommendation of Ziesenis, Brian Kinsgley of BG Consultants, proposed a $35,000 project that also would install grates over suction drains in the pool.
Mayor Scott Hopson said he would like “all the information the city can get from all of the experts in the field.”

Since it was announced about two weeks ago that the pool would open late, vandals spray-painted graffiti in the empty pool and staff at the aquatic center have been receiving a large volume of complaints regarding the closure of the pool.

PANAMA CITY — Some people think the story of the little girl who had her intestines pulled out by a pool drain is an urban legend. It isn’t.
Abigail Taylor was 6 when she died of injuries suffered in a pool at a Minneapolis golf club in 2007. Valerie Lakey was 5 when a drain in a North Carolina pool essentially disemboweled her in 1993, requiring her to live with a feeding tube.
Their injuries and others were the impetus for the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, named after the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker, who died when a drain trapped her in a hot tub in 2002.
Signed into law in December 2007, the act mandates safer public pool drains. The Decembers 2008 deadline to meet new standards has passed, but many owners of public pools across the country still are struggling to get safer drains.
“We’re talking about direct-suction drains,” said Ralph Miller, environmental health director for the Bay County Health Department. “Those are the ones where the drain is pulling straight through the bottom of the pool, and there’s no way to stop it.”
Direct-suction drains were outlawed in Florida pools in 1977, and the law was expanded to include spas in 1993. That helped the Sunshine State get ahead of the curve, because, while getting up to par with the new drain law will hold up some Memorial Day pool openings in places such as Maryland and Kansas, it will not close any pools here.
“It’s going to be difficult,” Rick Medeiros, in Cox Pools management, said of the change for direct suction pools. “The size of the plumbing is the big thing. ... Typically you’ll have a 2-inch line on direct suction, and that probably has to be changed to a 6-inch line. So you literally have to bust out the bottom of the pool to make the changes.”
That is an expensive process that can run into the thousands of dollars. Pools without direct suction just need to install safe drain covers, which are domed or bow out so swimmers cannot lay flat against them. Availability has been an issue; manufacturers did not make enough of the drains in time for pools to meet the deadline.

FD: I remember getting my hand stuck on a pool drain when I was little. Since then I don't play with pool drains and have told my children and grandchildren to NOT play with pool drain grids at the bottom of pools

This Federal Law does not regulate the residental pool or hot tub when Baker's grandchild died.

Billions of dollars to fix a problem, but not in the location where the actual problem exists.

We are too risk averse in this country.

We are losing the edge that makes us competitive.

Education would have been more meaningful, less expensive and I think more effective.

Hey, wake up! Take care of your kids!

Go play in the pool and the hot tub with them... teach them to swim.

Aquatic Injury Facts
Drowning & Near Drowning Accidents
The death rate from drowning among children ages 14 and under declined 35 percent from 1987 to 1996. However, drowning remains the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in this age group and the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 1 to 4.

The majority of drowning and near-drowning occurs in residential swimming pools.

However, children can drown in as little as one inch of water and are therefore at risk of drowning in wading pools, bathtubs, buckets, diaper pails, toilets, spas and hot tubs. Additionally, older children are more likely to drown in open water sites, such as lakes, rivers and oceans.

Drowning usually occurs quickly and silently. Childhood drowning and near-drowning can happen in a matter of seconds and typically occur when a child is left unattended or during a brief lapse in supervision. Two minutes following submersion, a child will lose consciousness. Irreversible brain damage occurs after four to six minutes and determines the immediate and long-term survival of a child. The majority of children who survive are discovered within two minutes following submersion (92 percent), and most children who die are found after 10 minutes (86 percent). Nearly all who require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) die or are left with severe brain injury.

In 1996, nearly 1,000 children ages 14 and under drowned. Children ages 4 and under accounted for nearly half of these deaths.
Each year, an estimated 5,000 children ages 14 and under are hospitalized due to near-drowning.

Near-drowning have high case fatality rates. Fifteen percent of children admitted for near-drowning die in the hospital. As many as 20 percent of near-drowning survivors suffer severe, permanent neurological disability.

For every child who drowns, an additional four are hospitalized for near-drowning; and for every hospital admission, approximately four children are treated in hospital emergency rooms.

A swimming pool is 14 times more likely than a motor vehicle to be involved in the death of a child age 4 and under.

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More than half of drowning among infants (under age 1) occur in bathtubs. Drowning in this age group also occur in toilets and buckets.
More than 85 percent of drowning among children ages 1 to 4 are pool related. Children ages 5 to 14 most often drown in swimming pools and open water sites.

More than 320 children, 88 percent between the ages of 7 and 15 months, have drowned in buckets containing water or other liquids used for mopping floors and other household chores since 1984.

Approximately 10 percent of childhood drowning occur in bathtubs; and the majority of these occur in the absence of adult supervision.
Among children ages 4 and under, there are approximately 375 residential swimming pool drowning and 2,900 near-drowning requiring hospital emergency room treatment each year.

More than half of these drowning occur in the child's home pool and one-third at the homes of friends, neighbors or relatives.

The majority of children who drown in swimming pools were last seen in the home, had been missing from sight for less than five minutes, and were in the care of one or both parents at the time of the drowning.
In-ground swimming pools without complete four-sided isolation fencing are 60 percent more likely to be involved in drowning than those with four-sided isolation fencing.
Since 1980, approximately 230 children ages 4 and under have drowned in spas and hot tubs.
In 1997, 31 children ages 14 and under died in boating-related incidents. Nearly 60 percent of these children drowned; the remaining deaths were associated with other injuries such as falls, burns and propeller-related injuries.
In 1997, more than 200 children ages 14 and under suffered personal watercraft-related injuries while on the water.
Drowning and near-drowning tend to occur on Saturdays and Sundays (40 percent) and between the months of May and August (66 percent).
Drowning fatality rates are higher in southern and western states than in other regions of the United States. Rural areas have higher death rates than urban or suburban areas, in part due to decreased access to emergency medical care.

Children ages 4 and under have the highest drowning death rate, a rate two to three times greater than other age groups, and account for more than 40 percent of home drowning. These drowning typically occur in swimming pools and bathtubs.

Male children have a drowning rate two to four times that of female children. However, females have a bathtub drowning rate twice the rate of males.
Black children ages 14 and under have a drowning death rate that is two times greater than white children, in general and six times greater for drowning involving buckets. However, white children ages 1 to 4 have a drowning death rate that is twice that of black children, primarily from residential swimming pool drowning.
Low-income children are at greater risk from non-swimming pool drowning.
Among children hospitalized for near-drowning, prolonged submersion and time until resuscitative efforts are initiated, as well as hypothermia, are strongly associated with poor outcomes.
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Typical medical costs for a near-drowning victim can range from $75,000 for initial emergency room treatment to $180,000 a year for long-term care. The cost of a near-drowning that results in brain damage can be more than $4.5 million.

The total annual cost of drowning and near-drowning among children ages 14 and under is approximately $6.2 billion.

Children ages 4 and under account for $3.8 billion, or 61 percent, of these costs.

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