As temperatures climb and children take to public pools in droves, so too does the rate of swimming accidents. Recently, for example, Gwinnett County firefighters in Georgia spent several hours working to free a child’s arm from a swimming pool vacuum line. Fortunately, in this instance, family members were able to keep her head above the waterline until she could be freed from the concrete that encased the pipe. However, this isn’t always the case.
As an Atlanta personal injury attorney, I know that an even more common, and often fatal, swimming accident involves suction entrapment. This occurs when a swimmer is ensnared by suction forces as water rushes out of the drain on the pool’s floor. In some cases the swimmer, usually a small child, is held underwater until they drown. In other cases, rescue has been successful but children have incurred serious limb injuries.
Typically the owners and operators of pools and sometimes the maintenance workers or pool manufacturer may be held liable for accidents like these, especially with the passing of The P&SS Act in December 2007. Effective in December of 2008, all public pools and spas have been required to install anti-entrapment drain covers on single blockable drain systems. However, while this act gives certain consumers options after-the fact, prevention is always key.
A few pool safety tips:
• Always monitor your small children while in the pool area. Don’t let flotation devices serve as your child’s babysitter and never assume that they alone will prevent drowning.
• Consider sealing the drain. As an alternative you can install a drain cover or Safety Vacuum Release System (SVRS) on your private pool. These devices are specifically designed to prevent body suction entrapment.
• Secure long hair with hair ties or braids.
• Make sure that family members learn CPR and know how to swim. Accident victims tend to fare better if they receive help right away.