Pool Drain Safety for Kids

The near drowning of musician Usher’s son who was placed in intensive care after getting his arm stuck in a pool drain is highlighting an issue of enormous importance. Parents should become more aware of pool drain dangers and implement proper pool safety measures. The suction created by the drains can trap children under the surface or catch limbs or hair, in some cases cause serious injury or death.

According to PoolSafely.gov in the US, out of 94 people entrapped by pool drains, 79 were injured (from 1999 to 2009). An average of 390 children under 15 die each year from pool or spa-related submersion injuries, including drowning or near-drowning incidents, according to 2008-2010 statistics from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. While drowning statistics in Canada are widely available, pool and spa entrapment injury stats were not found.

Public Swimming
Swimming pools with drains can be dangerous for children and toddlers. You have fewer worries when your little swimmer splashes in the back yard wading pool, but what about public pools and waterparks? You may not be aware but some of the most dangerous pools for drain safety are public wading pools and pools designed for children. Ask management or owners if the pool is inspected and meets drain safety standards. Are compliant drain covers installed? Make sure covers are fitted properly and aren't loose, broken, or cracked. If so, don't let your kids swim and notify the staff.

Pool Drain Hazards
Pool and spa drains are powerful suction forces that can cause entrapment, serious physical injuries, and drowning. Entanglement and entrapment can happen when a part of your child’s body is held by force against the drain or if jewelry, hair, or clothing becomes caught in the drain. Faulty drain covers or suction openings in the drain are often the problem. Fingers and toes can get stuck.

Go Over the Rules
The best defense against entrapment is to prevent it before it can happen by being watchful in and around a pool or spa. Talk to your child about pool rules. Locate drains, pipes, and other protrusions or openings. Find the pump switch and ask how to shut it down. Keep children away from the drains. Always tie your children's hair back to prevent it from being sucked into a drain, and have them to remove any necklaces, bracelets or other jewelry before swimming. Tell your children to stay away from drains and then monitor them closely to make sure they follow that rule. Never leave children alone in or near the pool without adult supervision. Drain covers should be regularly checked and replaced by pool maintenance professionals.

What to Do in an Emergency
If entrapment or entanglement occurs, make sure someone immediately shuts down the pump and if necessary call 911. If your child gets stuck to the drain, don't try to lift him or her straight off the drain; the force of the suction makes that impossible. Instead, reach across the child, wedging your fingers between the drain and their body. Then peel or roll them off by pulling sideways. Be prepared to perform CPR or other life saving measures until emergency aid arrives if necessary.

More Resources:

Health Canada information on Swimming Pool Safety

Pool & Hot Tub Council of Canada 

Pool Safety Standards - City (Toronto) Operated Swimming and Wading pools

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