Tips to Ensure Your Pool Drain is Safe

swimming pool drain view from above pool

Creating a safer pool means eliminating risks both in the water and out of it, and that means making sure your pool drains help prevent entrapment and drowning. Many pool owners never think about their pool drain cover, and some couldn’t even tell you if there is one in their pool at all. Pool drain safety is vital–especially when children, the elderly, or week swimmers will be using your pool, as they may not have the strength or coordination to save themselves from an unsafe pool drain. As a responsible pool owner, you need to make sure your floor drains don’t lead to an avoidable tragedy.

The Virginia Graeme Baker Act

Virginia Graeme Baker was a good swimmer by age seven, competing in both swimming and diving events for her local community teams. While enjoying time in a hot tub with her family, she became trapped against a drain plate by suction, eventually drowning despite her mother’s attempts to pull her free to safety. By the time two men working together were able to pull her free, breaking the drain in the process, it was too late. To honor her daughter and prevent future tragedies, her mother embarked on a campaign to change safety regulations, and in late 2007, the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (VGB) was signed into law. 

While the law bears her name, she was neither the first nor the last victim of unsafe pool drains. Beyond drowning, victims have bad bruising, lacerations, and in some cases, parts of their intestines have been pulled out of their bodies by the force of drains. Even drains that lack strong suction can be entanglement hazards, catching hair, clothing, or jewelry and holding swimmers in place. While VGB may have brought attention and a baseline of safety to pool drains, safety guidelines, standards, and regulations have continued to evolve to help prevent both injuries and tragedies. 

Why Drains Can Be So Dangerous

close up of a swimming pool drain

Most pools use a system that actively pumps water out of the pool and through a filter before returning the cleaner water to your pool. Powered by a pump responsible for intermittently circulating thousands of gallons of water, this system creates currents in the water near pool drains, pulling both water and loose material near the drain into the system for cleaning. This becomes dangerous when the material being pulled into or against the drain is either a swimmer or something attached to them. Since these drains are under the surface of the water, someone trapped can easily panic, become disoriented, find themselves trapped by the suction, or otherwise find themselves unable to get to the surface for a breath of air.

What You Need To Know About Pool Drain Safety

If you have a pool, you have pool drains. Proper upkeep and management of those drains should be an integral part of your pool safety setup and maintenance plan. Here are a few tips to keep in mind for a safer swimming pool.

Keep It Covered

An anti-entrapment pool drain cover should always be in place and in good repair. Anti-entrapment covers are designed to prevent the flat-surface contact point that can allow suction to become unbreakable when a body is pulled against it. They are also designed to keep loose articles, like jewelry, clothing, or hair, from being caught inside the drain, hindering a swimmer’s ability to pull away.

Pool drains with covers that are loose, broken, or not in place need immediate attention. Most pools built after 2008 will have VGB-compliant covers in place or available. If your pool drain cover isn’t designed to prevent entrapment, contact a professional about retrofitting your pool drains. There are a wide variety of products available to help protect the people you love from unsafe drain covers. 

Break The Flow

Some older pools may not be able to be upgraded with VGB-compliant drain covers, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a pool drain safety option. A safety vacuum release system is a good addition to any pool but becomes a lifesaver when you can’t install anti-entrapment covers. Installed near your pool’s pump, they can cut the suction to your pool drains in seconds, allowing swimmers trapped to return to the surface.

These systems work by cutting the negative pressure applied by the pump when the drain becomes obstructed. As pressure increases, the suction is either stopped completely or diverted away from the drain pipe. While this can be a lifesaver for those trapped by suction, it won’t prevent entanglement alone. Your rain should still have covers that help keep loose articles from proceeding far enough to snag inside the drain system.

Keep It Tight

As part of pool drain safety, don’t put all the impetus on safety equipment. Make sure swimmers are wearing proper attire before they enter the pool. That means well-fitting swimming clothes that don’t have long, loose strings, ties, or decorative elements. Jewelry, if worn, should fit close to the body and not dangle. Long hair should be kept in a bun, under a swimming cap, or otherwise controlled to keep it close to the body and confined. A ponytail alone is not enough to limit the risk of hair being pulled into the drain system.

Always Be Alert

As with general pool safety, being safe around pool drains requires supervision. Make sure swimmers know to keep themselves and any pool toys or equipment away from pool drain covers, even if they are VGB-compliant. Kids can think the pull of water is a fun feature of the pool, but play there can turn into tragedy far too easily. To make sure your pool is only being used with appropriate supervision, install a swimming pool safety barrier that helps prevent accidental drowning by keeping swimmers out of the pool when an adult isn’t present.

toddler sitting next to a white mesh pool fence

A lack of safety barriers is a contributing factor in the majority of accidental drownings. Whether you choose a removable mesh pool fence that surrounds your pool area and keeps out kids and pets with a self-closing, self-latching gate or a pool safety net that anchors to your deck and keeps potential drowning victims up and out of the water, you’ll be doing your part to keep your loved ones safer. With almost 4000 lives lost annually, it’s a smart move for any responsible pool owner.

Get Your Safer Pool Quote Today

When you call and request a free estimate, your local technician will work to tailor a quote to your pool area that gives you the best and most cost-effective pool protection options. They’ll take measurements, talk to you about your pool needs, and give you a written quote so you can make an informed decision. Our installers live in your community and are dedicated to protecting their neighbors. Take the first step toward your safer pool with a quote from Lifeguard on Duty.

Like this article? Share it!

Latest Articles

Check out our collection of blog articles to learn more about pool safety today!

Backyard swimming pool with multiple waterfalls and enhanced lighting
Swimming Pool Water Features to Enhance Your Backyard
Pool water features give you an upgraded swimming pool experience with a better look, immersive sounds, and fun...
Empty swimming pool in a residential backyard
Swimming Pool Remodeling and Maintenance Tips
Learn how to keep your pool protected during a swimming pool remodel and our pool maintenance tips to spot areas...
5 kids wearing goggles are locked arms in a swimming pool
How to Beat the Heat: Tips to Stay Cool This Summer
Your pool can be a great way to beat the summer heat while staying safe. We cover the top tips for summer pool...

Make Your Backyard A Safe Place Today!

Complete the information below and one of our installers will be in touch with you as soon as possible to discuss the pool safety options available to fit your needs & budget

Contact Info