VIRGINIA GRAEME BAKER AND THE HIDDEN DANGERS OF SWIMMING POOLS

Many kids across the United States will spend their summer days swimming and having fun in neighborhood pools. However, it is important to remember that pools pose many dangers to young swimmers.

Pool Safety Campaign

The summer of 2011 marks the second year for the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) “Pool Safely: Simple Steps Save Lives” campaign. The campaign is a public education and awareness campaign aimed at reducing the number of drownings and non-fatal submersion and entrapment accidents involving children. The campaign provides simple safety steps at poolsafely.gov.

With the CPSC reporting, through the first five months of 2011, a total of 63 near-drowning and 55 drowning accidents occurring in 29 states and territories, it is important to review water safety tips and remember that children are vulnerable to swimming accidents.

Pool Safety Statistics

Recently released statistics from the CPSC show a high risk of injury or death when swimming for children age 15 or younger. The statistics include:

  • From 2006 to 2008, an average of 383 pool and spa-related drownings occurred each year for children under the age of 15, with children under 5 years old accounting for 76 percent of the fatalities.
  • From 2006 to 2008, children under the age of 15 accounted for an estimated 72 percent of fatalities in residential pools and spas.
  • From 2008 to 2010, children under the age of 15 accounted for an estimated 55 percent of fatalities in residential pools and spas.
  • From 2008 to 2010, an estimated 5,100 submersion accidents involving children under 15 years old resulted in emergency room treatment, with children under age 5 accounting for 79 percent of these accidents.
  • A staggering 96 percent of submersion accidents are fatal; of the 4 percent who survive near drowning accidents, many people suffer severe injuries that require intensive medical care.

These statistics reinforce the importance of parents and other adults vigilantly watching young children playing near or swimming in the backyard pool, spa or other location where a lifeguard is not on duty, such as a hotel pool. While vigilance is vital in keeping children safe in or around pools and spas, sometimes it is not enough – just ask the parents of Virginia Graeme Baker.

Who is Virginia Graeme Baker?

Virginia Graeme Baker is the young girl who the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act (P&SS Act) is named for. Her tragic death serves as a reminder that pools and spas can be dangerous, even for experienced swimmers.

In June 2002, 7-year-old Baker – who learned to swim at age 3 – drowned when she was pulled under water by a hot tub drain with a faulty drain cover. Baker’s mother unsuccessfully attempted to free Baker from the powerful pull of the drain, and it eventually took two men to pull the child from it. The suction of the drain was so powerful that the drain cover broke when the men freed the little girl. By the time she was freed from the drain’s suction, Baker had drowned.

Following the tragic incident, Baker’s family lobbied Congress to pass increased pool and spa safety measures. In response, then-President Bush signed the P&SS Act into law in 2007.

The P&SS Act seeks to prevent entrapment and evisceration accidents, raise awareness of water risks for children and provide the public with education about pool and spa safety. The P&SS Act requires all public pools and spas to have approved anti-entrapment drain covers installed. Further, public pools and spas with a single main drain other than an unblockable drain must install at least one of the following safety measures: a gravity drainage system, a suction-limiting vent system, a safety vacuum release system, an automatic pump shut-off or drain disablement.

Pool and Spa Safety Tips

The CPSC’s “Simple Steps Save Lives” campaign offers the following tips for keeping children safe near pools and hot tubs:

  • Never leave a child unattended in or near water
  • Always have life-saving devices such as life rings near water
  • Teach children basic water safety
  • Learn to swim and teach children how to swim
  • Learn CPR and other basic life-saving skills
  • Install a fence at least four-feet high around a pool or spa
  • Install pool alarms (such as surface wave or underwater alarms) or gate alarms to indicate when a child goes near or into water

Swimming pools are for splashing around and having fun. But, if you or a loved one is injured or drowns while swimming or sitting in a hot tub, speak with an experienced personal injury attorney.