Feature Article - February 2006
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Special Supplement: A Complete Guide to Aquatic Centers

Just Add Water

By Kelli Anderson


Entrapment—which occurs when a body part or hair gets caught in the forceful suction of a pool drain causing injury, evisceration or drowning—is another safety hazard that can be prevented easily. Drain-cover inspection should be part of a daily checklist regimen to ensure that drain covers are secure. At the first sign of a crack, deterioration or discoloration, a drain cover should be replaced immediately.

Mike Low, an educator and expert on entrapment prevention, also recommends cleaning out the skimmers and hair lint traps regularly. If blocked with debris, skimmers and traps increase suction on the drain to dangerous levels. Keeping people away from drains through signage and vigilant lifeguards provides yet another layer of protection.

Measures such as education, daily drain and trap inspections, and signage are all part-and-parcel of an effective entrapment-prevention plan. However, in the event that entrapment occurs, two other measures also are essential—emergency shut-off buttons and vacuum-release systems.

Nearby shut-off buttons certainly make a lot of sense in order to manually shut down pumps when entrapment occurs. However, many deaths and injuries occur because potential rescuers are not nearby or are unaware that there is a problem until it is too late. A vacuum-release system stops a pump as soon as it detects an increase in vacuum suction, in essence stopping entrapment in its tracks.

For more information, visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission at www.cpsc.gov and the National Spa and Pool Institute at www.nspi.org.


Another area that demands vigilance by both lifeguards and management is the prevention of diving accidents. Clearly visible information and markings like pool-bottom lines, depth markings and signage are vital to alert swimmers of diving conditions or prohibitions.

Changes in diving regulations by many high-school interscholastic associations from 3.5-foot depths to 8-foot depths have prompted facility managers to move starting blocks to the deep ends of their pools. For older pools where depths may not reach 8 feet, diving has been prohibited all together to avoid injuries or costly litigation.

Underscoring the diving dangers, some agencies are even more stringent, such as the American Red Cross that insists that diving should not be taught except in depths of 9 feet.

However, it is not only the depths posing a danger but also the diving methods that create the problem.

"Steering up" is a diving technique that counters the traditional diving method where arms are pulled back after entering the water, exposing the head to potential collision. Instead, steering up teaches divers to keep arms forward until the beginning of the ascent.