Pool Safety: Danger Lurking in Your Back-Yard Pool

May 14, 2008 9:33:39 PM PDT
As the weather warms up, more Valley families will seek relief by heading to local swimming pools.Whether it's a trip to the city pool, or a dip in a neighbor's backyard, swimming pools are a fun and refreshing place to spend the summer.

Safety is always a concern when it comes to kids and water. But many parents may not know that certain pool drains pose a serious danger. The suction created by some circulation systems is so powerful it can pull a child's hair or limbs into the drain, making it difficult even for an adult to free them.

Earlier this year a six year old Minnesota girl died from injuries she suffered when she sat on a pool drain and had part of her small intestine sucked out of her body. Sadly, she's not alone. From 1985 to 2004, at least 33 children ages 14 and under died from being entrapped in a pool or spa drain, and nearly 100 were injured.

Butch Ricketts, Pools by Ricketts: "The older pools are the ones we really have to be concerned about."

Butch Ricketts is the owner of Pools by Ricketts in Madera, and has been in the business for nearly three decades.

He says the problem is many pools that were built more than ten years ago use a single drain system. It focuses all of the suction in one place, but newer models use a dual drain system that's much safer.

Ricketts: "In the old system where there was only one, hair could be pulled in and they could be entrapped. But with the dual main drain system it can't happen because when they sit on one or the hair gets pulled into the other one, this one will take over, and the suction will go from that."

The four city pools here in Merced all use the dual drain system, but officials say lifeguards are still prepared to take extra safety steps if necessary.

Jake Meneley, Merced City Recreation Supervisor: "They are trained and well versed in emergency procedures, including cutting off the pool pumps if need be."

Older pools that do have a single drain can be renovated to use the new system, or an anti-suction device can be installed for about 800 to 900 dollars. And Ricketts says with the right safety equipment, pools are still a great way to escape the heat and spend time with family.

Ricketts: "Unfortunately with the economic situation, with gas prices and stuff, this is becoming more valuable as far as the alternative to go away on vacation. So we're telling people to build your paradise in your backyard."


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