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Ushering in some pool safety

Singer, songwriter, actor and dancer, Usher, recently made headlines for something other than his R&B performances. His 5-year-old son, Usher V, was swimming when his arm got stuck in a drain at the bottom of their home pool in Atlanta.

While this may sound like a freak accident that only happens in backyard pools of the stars, a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report shows that between 1999 and 2009 that there were 94 reported entrapments. Of the 94, there were 12 fatalities, 79 injuries and three incidents without injuries.

Of those fatalities, one was Virginia Graeme Baker, a 7-year-old girl who drowned after she was trapped under water by the powerful suction from a hot tub drain. Her story inspired the 2007 passage of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act (P&SS Act), requiring all public pools and spas to have compliant drain covers installed and a second anti-entrapment system installed, when there is a single main drain other than an unblockable drain.

According to poolsafety.gov, a drain entrapment occurs when a body is held against a pool or spa drain by the force of the pool’s suction or when an article of clothing, jewelry, hair or a limb is caught in a faulty drain.

While the P&SS Act includes public pools, home pools and spas still pose a hazard – as evidenced by Usher V’s experience.

The CPSC recommends that parents and families follow these simple steps to reduce the hazard of drain entrapment and entanglements:

  • Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments and entanglements
  • Make sure that loose items such as long hair, clothing or jewelry are not dangling when swimming in a pool or sitting in a spa
  • Ensure any pool and spa you use has compliant drain covers, and ask if you do not know
  • Consider installing a Safety Vacuum Release System (SVRS)—a device that will automatically shut off a pump if a blockage is detected—or any other automatic shut-off systems in your own pool or spa
  • Plainly mark the location of the electrical cut-off switch for the pool or spa pump
  • Know where the pool or spa pump switch is and know how to turn it off

I’m glad little Usher V is going to be OK. His public experience is a good reminder that pools and spas can be serious dangers to little ones!

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We have created this blog as a way to communicate key childrens' health and safety issues to parents and other child advocates. It is managed by Dayton Children's department of marketing communications. Comments can be sent to rodneyg@childrensdayton.org.

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