Unfortunately, it often takes a high profile accident to call attention to a hazard that has been lurking for years, and a recent near-drowning incident involving a celebrity’s child has once again proved that to be true. When singer and NBC's "The Voice" coach Usher's son nearly died in his backyard pool, public attention once again returned to the danger of pool drain covers.
On August 5, Usher Raymond V, age 5, was swimming with family members when his arm became stuck in an uncovered pool drain. The boy had to be hospitalized following his near-drowning incident, but is fortunately expected to make a full recovery.
The danger of pool drains has been known for quite some time. In 2008, Congress passed the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, mandating all public pools in the country to be equipped with anti-entrapment drain covers. But, clearly, that law has not been translated to private pools.
According to a recent report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 106 cases of pool drain entrapment between 1999 and 2011 (an incident where 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 body part becomes caught in a faulty drain). Of those cases, 12 people died, 89 were injured and five escaped without injuries. Seventy-nine percent of the victims in these incidents were children under the age of 18.
Entrapment is a particular danger with older drain models, because those drain covers are flat and have large holes. Newer drain covers are safer because they have many more vents and are raised up off the pool floor instead of sitting flush against the bottom. The CPSC recommends having your drain cover inspected if you’re not sure what type you have. It’s better to have an unnecessary service call than a tragedy such as the one affecting Usher’s family.