DOI News

For Immediate Release: Contacts:
May 20, 2009 Kristin Milam
Johanna Royo
919-807-6011
 
Safe Kids North Carolina Tackles Confusion About Pool and Spa Law
 
RALEIGH -- Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of swim season, but this year there's been a change to your local pool: all public pools and spas must have anti-entrapment drains or safety vacuum release systems in place before opening for the season. The federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act of 2007 gave all public pools until December of last year and seasonal pools until they opened this year to comply with the new law.
 
"Our office has received several calls from pool managers confused about whether or not they needed to be in compliance now. This is very simple - they do. Even though North Carolina's building codes won't reflect the change until June, the federal requirements are already in effect. These horrific injuries and deaths to children can be prevented," said Insurance Commissioner and Safe Kids North Carolina Chair Wayne Goodwin.
 
The law came about after 7-year-old Virginia Graeme Baker, the granddaughter of former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker, III died in a backyard spa after the powerful suction of a drain entrapped her underwater. The powerful suction created by the pump can cause a swimmer to get stuck to a drain or suction outlet, and then they can't free themselves, no matter how strong a swimmer they may be. It is extremely difficult for onlookers to break this suction by lifting the person off the drain - to do so, you would have to be able to lift more than 500 pounds. Even several people working together probably won't be able to free the victim - the vacuum must be broken.
 
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more people were killed or injured in residential pools and spas than in public swimming facilities.
 
"The law only requires public and newly-built residential pools and spas to provide this essential safety measure, but parents must be aware of the danger when they allow their children to swim in backyard pools or public pools not in compliance with this law," said Commissioner Goodwin.
 
While this is a federal law, the North Carolina Building Code Council adopted language in March to change the state building code, mirroring the federal law for public and new residential pools and spas.
 
This building code change will take effect in June. Public pools include all hotel, apartment, community, club or any pool or spa that is not considered a "backyard pool." All new residential pools must comply with the new building requirements from this point forward.
 
Injury is the leading cause of death for children in North Carolina. Each year more than 200 children under the age of 15 die, about 3,000 are admitted to hospitals, and more than 45,000 receive other medical care as a result of injuries. In a typical year one out of every 34 children in North Carolina experiences an injury that results in death or medical care.
 
Safe Kids North Carolina reaches out to parents, caregivers and children in 58 counties served by 36 coalitions across the state. Through these coalitions and partnerships, more than six million people across the state have access to Safe Kids North Carolina programming.
 
For more information about Safe Kids North Carolina, visit their Web site by clicking on this link.
 
-- SKNC --