of tragedy, the
physician will likely name the cause of death as "drowning" without much
attention paid to what caused the accident in the first place.
"In the Baker case, we
tried to resuscitate, but she was pronounced dead at the hospital and then
it was finished for us," Schmidt says. "I don't see anything wrong with
adding another box on the form [to report entrapment incidences], but I
think ultimately the pool industry needs to police itself to make sure pools
and hot tubs are as safe as can be."
Paul McCain, a
firefighter in Sunrise, Fla., and co owner of Play Safe Systems, a company
that makes an anti-entrapment device, says that he's been guilty of
I could have run
across a [suction
never knew it.
reports as well. "Every time I ran on a drowning call... it was reported as
a drowning -nothing about how it happened," he says. "I could have run
across a [suction entrapment call] and never knew it."
January 1985 and March 2002, there were 147 confirmed, recorded
suction entrapment incidences, according to CPSC records. Fifty-one of those
were hair entanglement, 79 body or limb entrapments (including three
eviscerations), four mechanical and 13 unknown. Of the 147
incidences, 36 resulted in deaths.
Even though these
figures are relatively low, it's clear the problem is underreported.
Jacquie Elder, the
CPSC's assistant executive director for hazard identification and reduction,
notes that most of the data is anecdotal, so the numbers are probably low.
"We have ways to get [the information], a number of sources," she says. "[We
use] hospital emergency rooms, death certificates, incident reports via news
clips or reports to our hot line or Web site. But there are cases where it
might be difficult to find out."
safety experts think the industry can do more
doesn't happen as much as toddler drownings, but it's still horrible and the
thing is, it's easily preventable," says Merle Stoner, owner of Poolguard, a
North Vernon, Ind., manufacturer of pool safety products, and a member of
the ASTM executive committee on consumer products. "Why do we have to wait
until [the number of victims] goes above 10,000 before we do anything? The
industry needs to be proactive."
What's to be done?
the past several years, the debate over just what to do about suction
entrapment has polarized the industry. Some were initially taken aback when
SVRS manufacturers campaigned to have states mandate their devices on public
Broken or missing drain covers increase the likelihood of a suction
entrapment tragedy. Above: Unfortunately, even when drain covers are in
place, a swimmer can still get trapped on a drain grate, as the markings on
this entrapment survivor illustrate
"There is not one solution for all five forms of
entrapment, that's for sure. So when the SVRS manufacturers portrayed
themselves as the one solution, I think that's what got the industry a
little angry," says David Nibler, director of new business development and
marketing at Water Pik Technologies, a pool equipment manufacturer based in
Newport Beach, Calif. "But now I think they've accepted the idea of layers
of protection, and I see the industry accepting them more for doing that. I
definitely subscribe to layers of protection - backup systems."
many industries blanch at the idea of government involvement in the way they
do business, the National & Pool Institute (the industry's largest trade
association) has been more agreeable to the idea as long as legislation
focuses on layers of protection without mandating specific products.
Yet last summer, when the International Code
Council revised its residential code, it added an appendix that calls for
SVRSs on both single and multi source suction pools. Industry reaction was
tempered somewhat by the fact that states adopting the new law have to
specifically cite the SVRS appendix to lake it local law. While ICC
officials now that 42 states have adopted the new code, there is no way of
knowing how many also have taken on the SVRS appendix.
"I haven't heard of anyone adopting," says Paul
Armstrong, vice president