College takes safety precautions for commercial pool drains in Dixon Center

By Brian Loschiavo
February 19, 2009

Pools and hot tub drains across the country and here in Pennsylvania have become dangerous.

Two years ago, a 7-year-old girl from Pennsylvania tried to hold on to her young life as she was helplessly suctioned to the drain at the bottom of a family friend’s hot tub. From that point on, the standards for all public and commercial pools had to change.

This situation has affected pools across the country and notably here at Cabrini. Cabrini is one of the first commercial pools to make the change. When a lot of other pools asked for emergency waivers to put safety covers on their drains, Cabrini went right to work.

“The change was so easy for us to make here at Cabrini because our drainage system is more or less universal, so the drain cover was easy to get,” Derek Kay, cabrini aquatics director, said.

Every year around two people die in the United States as a result of being held under the water by the powerful suction of pool and hot tub drains.

The young child that drowned just happened to be the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker. This specific case gained huge public awareness when the mother of the child took the issue to Congress to testify about the dangers of pool drains.

In 2007, Congress passed a law in the name of former Secretary of State Baker’s granddaughter that made regulations that required public and commercial pools as well as hot tubs to be fitted with safety drain covers that would prevent such fatalities.

The cut-off date for pools to make the change was effective Dec. 19, 2008. This caused a lot of problems with owners, operators and manufactures of many aquatic facilities. Their complaint being that there was not enough time allowed to make the changes.

The Dixon Center pool here at Cabrini had no complaints and made the changes needed.

“Even though Cabrini made the change right away I understand the complaints of people who operate pools across the country,” Kay said. “There was not enough time allowed to make the appropriate changes for some facilities.”

Many manufactures argue that there are not enough parts available for some style drains and that some pools have extremely unique and in some cases old plumbing and new safety drains that have not even been manufactured for them at this point. This has caused many area pools to ask for waivers extending the time they have to make the change so they can still operate.

Kay compared the new pool drain regulations to the digital television conversion that will occur in the next few weeks. He talked about the fact that there has been a lot of awareness for the digital change to prepare people unlike the pool drain change over where it was not well advertised.

This big argument comes from the National Swimming Pool Foundation who says that if pools get shut down for lack of compliance then water safety is reduced rather than improved. Aquatic safety would be reduced because without pools being opened swimming instruction and lifeguard training and not be conducted.

The NSPF has estimated that there are over 300,000 public swimming pools in America and this is a number that seems to be too large for on-site inspection. Therefore, the enforcement of the safety drain policy is going to depend on how safe operators want their pool to be and how much they care about the innocent people that there pool may affect.

The end result to the situation is simply to make the environment of all citizens safe. Most people do not even think about problems like these but they should know the dangers that may exist for themselves and their loved ones.

Brian Loschiavo

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