By Ron Schroader 

 Swimming pool, spa and hot tub drain hazards have plagued the swimming pool and spa industry for over three decades.  For just as many years pool  industry   leaders have pondered the causes and solutions for this problem.

The National Spa & Pool Institute (NSPI) has documented entrapment testing as far back as 1974 after a drowning occurred in which the victim was suctioned to the main drain of a swimming pool. In June 1974, the NSPI shared their results with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and requested the CPSC to issue a press release regarding drain-related hazards in our pool and spa waters. The NSPI redoubled their efforts in December 1976 after the death of a nine-year-old Orange County, California child in a similar incident.1

 Numerous deaths have been attributed to main drain suction entrapment. Unfortunately, poor record keeping has made the statistical numbers appear lower than they are in actuality. In most aquatic accident cases the victim is lying on the spa or pool deck and the EMS team on site are treating the patient for a drowning and are not concerned with the exact cause of the incident they are focused on saving the life of the patient.

In 1998, Kelsey LaRayne Ruwe was entrapped at a community pool and subsequently died. In talking with her mother, the EMS paramedic on-site and one of the young lifeguards on duty, I realized and felt the hurt and loss from suction entrapment deaths. Since that day, I have dedicated my career to ending these horrible events.

 The year 2000 was a very sad year for the families of four Florida children. One family lost their child as a result of hair entanglement; the other three children were limb entrapped. Two of those three children died. The other child lived, although he remains in a coma.

Hair entanglement is far and away the most common drain-related killer of children between the ages of two and six fears. When bathers or swimmers place :heir heads in the vicinity of active pool drains, their hair may become entangled in :he drain cover or grating. For the period between 1978-1996, the CPSC reports forty-nine entanglements (including thirteen deaths) where the victims heads were held under the water in spas, hot tubs, and whirlpools. 2

To date the CPSC recognizes three drain-related hazards: body entrapment, hair entrapment and evisceration. The NSPI acknowledges five: body entrapment, limb entrapment, hair entrapment, mechanical entrapment and evisceration. Triodyne Safety Systems, L.L.C. recognizes eight drain-related hazards. These include hair entanglement, finger entrapment, body entrapment, evisceration, environmental degradation, broken covers, missing covers and grip it and rip it.

Triodyne has also made efforts since 2000 to prompt the CPSC to initiate a press release reflecting the eight known main drain-related hazards and recommending the use of anti-entanglement/anti-entrapment-type drain covers as opposed to anti-vortex covers, which are hopelessly inadequate. To date, the CPSC has not issued any of the requested press releases and according to the "Guidelines for Entrapment Hazards Publication No. 363 009801," still recommends the use of anti-vortex covers as "safety" covers despite the fact that there exists no written definition for the term "anti-vortex cover."

It is obvious that we, as aquatic professionals, have to raise the bar for aquatic safety. A simple, cost effective answer is available to render suction outlets safer. At the time a pool is initially constructed, hydraulically balanced, multiple drains covered with anti-entrapment/anti-entanglement drain covers certified to ANSI/NSF 50 should be installed. The system should also be designed to comply with the certified safe flow rate of the drain covers. Under this scenario, most main drain suction entanglement/entrapment occurrences would be eradicated.

The CPSC does acknowledge a third layer of protection: the Safety Vacuum Release System (SVRS). Being proactive may be easier than industry leaders have considered in the past.

The following components dramatically improve the safety of a pool:


.Multiple, hydraulically balanced drain sumps (minimum: two)


.Anti-entanglement anti-entrapment ANSI/NSF 50 certified main drain safety covers.


.A safe flow rate not exceeding that to which the parts are certified


.A Safety Vacuum Release System (SVRS)


One final layer of protection: never leave a child unattended in or near the water. If we all work together to remedy this decades old group of aquatic suction hazards, we will end this terrible plague and our children will be able to enjoy their aquatic play grounds as they were intended safely. 



Thank you in advance for promoting main drain suction safety.


Ron Schroader is the Aquatic Safety Consultant for Triodyne Safety Systems, L.L.C., a Niles, IL based firm specializing in safety device design and development. Technical inquiries call (561) 309-9869

1    Backflip: And the Debate Goes On and On...Pool and Spa News Vol 41 No 24: Dec 13 2002, 90

2    Barnett, Ralph.  Anti_Hair Entanglement. Safety Alert Vol 1 No 1: February 1998.




New Water Solutions, Inc., Drainsafe nor I, Ron Schroader recommend the use of one product or device over another.
 Products must be implemented as per system/job specific application . It is the obligation of the installer to understand the intended use and application prior to installation of any product or device.
We do however recommend the use of products certified via (NRTL) Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories as per ASME/ANSI A112.19.17 & ASME/ANSI A112.19.8 2007 Standards.
 All products must be installed as per manufacturers instructions and be job site specific to meet the criteria of each individual application.

drainsafe : The Solution

A Swimming Pool Suction Safety Corporation


Aquatic Professionals:  (561) 433-2580 or 1-800-513-4372 

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