Unfortunately, it often takes a tragic accident to inspire safety legislation. In June 2002, 7-year-old Virginia Graeme Baker, granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker, became stuck to the family’s hot tub drain and was unable to pull herself free. Efforts by her mother to pull Graeme from the drain proved unsuccessful. Two men who eventually freed Graeme from the spa pulled so hard that the drain cover broke from the force. Graeme died from drowning, but the real cause of her death was suction entrapment due to a faulty drain cover.
The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act
After her tragic death, Graeme’s mother Nancy Baker, together with family and Safe Kids Worldwide, actively lobbied Congress to win support for a law requiring anti-entrapment drain covers and other safety devices as needed. The resulting legislation, the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and was signed into law by the President in December 2007.
Before enactment of the law, public wading pools, other pools designed specifically for young children, and in-ground spas that had flat drain grates and single main drain systems posed the greatest risk of entrapment.
According to the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, a pool or spa must have a drain cover (shown above) or another anti-entrapment device that complies with ASME/ASNI A112.19.8-2007. Pools and spas operating off of a single main drain, other than an unblockable drain, must also add one or more of the following options:
- Safety vacuum release system (SVRS)
- Suction-limiting vent system
- Gravity drainage system
- Automatic pump shut-off system
- Drain disablement
- Other systems that are determined to be equally effective as, or better than, the safety systems listed above
To carry out the requirements of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) launched a national public education campaign to raise awareness about drowning and entrapment prevention, support industry compliance with the Act’s requirements, and improve safety at the nation’s pools and spas.